5 years ago
Hi guys - it's been a little while since I've posted here. Recently, I did an interview with Patrick (pjk) from speedsolving.com, and he has kindly given me permission to share it on the CubeSkills blog. I found it quite funny looking back at some of my responses in the 2010 interview, particularly comments regarding solving times and progression.
October 19, 2010 : Interview with Speedsolving.com member Feliks Zemdegs : Currently (at the time of this interview) holds the World Record for 3x3x3 Average (8.52 Seconds), 4x4x4 Single (34.41 Seconds), 5x5x5 Single and Average (1:02.93/1:07.59), 2x2x2 Average (2.35 Seconds), and 3x3x3 One-Handed Average (14.76 Seconds).
Location: Melbourne, Australia
What is your favorite event, why?
My favourite event is probably the 3x3 speedsolve. It’s the main event of the WCA, and the one I practice most. Some other events that I practice a lot at the moment are 4x4 and 7x7. I've basically given up on 5x5, and OH, as I don't think I will be able to beat my official personal best's for a long time, if ever. I'm also getting into more memory oriented events, like multi-BLD, and big-cube BLD. My memory methods really suck though. I want to attempt a 5x5 BLD soon.
What made you become interested in solving puzzles?
I was browsing youtube, and noticed the youtube awards. Dan Brown’s “How to solve a Rubik’s cube” video was listed as the best instructional video. I checked around the house to see if we had a Rubik’s cube, but after not finding anything, I went out and bought a cheap $5 cube from a shop. Later that day I solved the cube with the video, and began to explore all the cubing videos. I watched the most popular ones of course. I was pretty happy when I beat the 3 year old girl in this video. :p
What, in your opinion, is your biggest "cubing" accomplishment?
My biggest cubing accomplishment would definitely be my 9.21 average World Record. After the first solve I definitely didn’t think I was going to get it, as it was going to be 11.xx or so, but luckily I was saved by a PLL skip. I was thrilled to get it, as I honestly didn’t think I could, after the first solve. I remember finishing my 4th solve, and Dene exclaimed “Wow it’s already sub 10!” At that point it felt like all the pressure had been lifted off, and I was able to relax, and I pulled off the fastest solve in the average. I think that in my future competitions, I will be able to relax more, as I have already achieved my goal. (After watching the 10.91 on camera, I was kicking myself for not doing the easy 2gll case, instead of a locky Chameleon – G perm :p)
What are your other hobbies?
I don’t really have other hobbies. I played the piano for a bit, but I wasn’t very good. I play the alto saxophone for 3 bands. I can juggle 4 balls, and do some 3 ball tricks, but that’s about it in the way of hobbies.
What is/are your pet peeve(s)?
Umm, don’t really have any major pet peeves. One thing I do hate explaining is when people ask me “are you the best in the world” because I always have to explain about the single, and average of 5 categories.
What will the future of cubing be like and how would you like cubing to progress?
I think the future of cubing will be more speed oriented, and focus less on the participation. I do hope that everyone will still be able to have solves in major events, and it will not be invitational, or have competing limits. I think that a sub 8 global average is possible, and possibly a sub 7 average of 12. I want to see that all events remain competitive, and world records keep on being broken.
So far, what has been your most enjoyable cubing experience?
My most enjoyable cubing experience was probably one of my competitions. The New Zealand competition was my first comp, and it was really cool meeting Dene, and other cubers, and participating in a competition. The Melbourne Summer Open 2010, however, was much more fun for me, as all of the Melbourne cubers had such a great time, and I didn’t stuff up much at all :D. The Australian nationals, the 2 day competition was very fun too, and also tiring. I get an incredible feeling when I do an official solve, as I know that it will be in the WCA database, and it will be displayed on the world rankings. I'm looking forward to the Asian championships in a few weeks too.
October 2, 2018 : Interview with Speedsolving.com member Feliks Zemdegs : He was first interviewed on Speedsolvng.com on October 20th, 2010, when he held world records in 2x2, 3x3, 4x4, 5x5, and 3x3 OH. He has attended 86 competitions and currently holds the world records in 3x3x3 single (4.22 seconds), 3x3x3 average (5.80 seconds), and 3x3x3 One-handed single (6.88 seconds), and is ranked top 5 in many other events. He has set 119 world records over the last 8 years.
Where are you living now and what have you been up to for the last 8 years?
I'm currently still living in Melbourne, Australia, but will be moving to Sydney at the start of next year to begin working full time. Since 2010, I've been studying at high school and university, working, and have continued speedcubing and all the various things that come with it. I finished high school at the end of 2013, then spent 3 years at the University of Melbourne doing a bachelor of commerce, majoring in economics, and worked part time at an internship in my final year. I graduated at the end of 2016. Since then, it's become slightly more complicated!
My original plan was to stay at university and study a masters degree in mechanical engineering. However, the rapid growth of speedcubing presented me with a bunch of opportunities relating to sponsorship, travel, and other projects. I decided to take the first half of 2017 to continue working part time, and spend time on a few cubing-related things, in addition to plenty of speedcubing practice. This culminated in an epic trip to South America for the Latin America Cubing Tour, followed by the 2017 World Championships in Paris. For the last 12 months, I've been studying the mechanical engineering degree part time whilst continuing to travel and compete. Long story short, I decided to withdraw from that degree in June, in favour of working full time at the start of next year. Despite not working or studying at the moment, things are still surprisingly busy!
In 2010, you held the 3x3 Average world record at 8.52 seconds. Today you hold the same record but at 5.80 seconds. What do you see as the biggest factors for such improvement?
I think that there are two main reasons speedcubing times are much lower today. Firstly, I think our solutions have improved significantly over time. There are a ridiculous number of possibilities to consider during F2L pairing, or when trying to figure out an X-cross, that it probably took many years of watching other solves on YouTube, discussing techniques with various people at competitions, etc. in order for this knowledge to be shared around and built upon, and for me to use a lot of it in speedsolves. Algorithms are also incredibly important. I remember learning my OLL and PLL algorithms from Bob Burton's Cubewhiz website. Most of those algorithms I've since replaced with superior ones. Not only have algorithms for standard cases improved, but entire algorithm sets which were once considered impossible or impractical, are now completely viable. Back when I started cubing, ZBLL was basically a nice theoretical idea, and even when Chris Tran started learning them, people saw his solve videos as proof that ZBLL wasn't really very practical for speedsolves. Of course, this turned out to be pretty misguided, and most top speedcubers today know at least a reasonable number of ZBLL algorithms.
The second major improvement is on the hardware side. Put simply, speedcubes have advanced to the point where they can basically do anything you want, and the choice for a main cube is based on personal preference and feel. Magnets have also had a huge impact on solving speed, particularly for larger cubes.
How has your practice routine changed over the last 8 years? Do you deliberately practice differently than you did 8 years ago? What is your practice routine today?
When I started out cubing, my practice regime was pretty basic. I would learn methods, techniques, or algorithms, and then just spam speedsolves until I was comfortable with using them in my solves. Sometimes, I'd take a break from learning new things, and only do solves. I also did plenty of untimed solves, which probably helped with discovering new things via experimentation.
I don't feel like I do things too much differently now. There are always more algorithms to learn, although I've been pretty lazy with that over the last 5 years or so. I probably do a lot more pure speedsolving sessions, as well as intentional competition style practice (with a stackmat, average of 5, competition noises, etc). If I find something in my solves which I'm not happy with, then I'll practice to fix it.
During high school, I would basically practice every single night, but over the last 3-4 years I've had to scale back the practice a fair bit, depending on what else is going on at the time. However, if I have a major competition coming up, or even a local one, I'll definitely make sure I'm ready for it, perhaps more so for the former.
Out of the 86 competitions you've attended, which one was your favorite and why?
It's so hard to choose a single favourite competition, but I'd probably lean towards Worlds 2013 in Las Vegas. It was the largest competition ever (by a huge margin, I believe), and it was the first place where I met so many other cubers for the first time. I can't exactly remember, but basically all of the fastest cubers in the world were attending the championships, it was pretty amazing. Thailand WC in 2011 was very similar, but the scale of the Vegas competition was exciting for the entire community, and for a kid like me.
What makes cubing different today than it was 8 years ago?
There are so many differences between cubing today, and cubing pre-2010. The biggest change is simply the size of the community, which has had some big flow-on effects. The size, reach, frequency, and professionalism of WCA competitions around the world have all increased immensely since 2010. Cubers have far more opportunities to attend these competitions, which further strengthens and grows the community. The size of the cubing market has meant that cubing retailers and manufacturers are also much larger than in the past, and in the last 3-4 years, have started sponsoring speedcubers with things such as puzzles, competition travel, all the way up to their own cube lines (Valk, Hays). The nice thing about this is that (as far as I'm aware) is that it hasn't really caused any animosity - cubers are still all as friendly and open as ever, despite sometimes being supported by different companies. Back in 2010, and even in 2011 and 2012 when I was breaking plenty of world records, I still had to ask my parents to buy me cubes. :p
You've held 119 world records, which ones are you most proud of?
I normally answer the 'favourite record' question with my 9.21 3x3 average, at the beginning of 2010. It was only my second competition, after almost two years of cubing. I'd been posting all of my times and videos on the internet (which definitely annoyed quite a few people, as I couldn't get any official times to back me up), and I was just ridiculously excited to have a chance to get my times officially recognised. The record at the time was Tomasz' 10.07, and I was comfortably sub 10 at home. Breaking the sub 10 barrier was a huge relief for me, and is definitely something I'm very proud of. Similarly, the other 3x3 average 'barrier' records are also some of my proudest. The 8.52, 7.91, 6.54, and the 5.97 averages were all pretty special in their own right, and are a pretty nice streak to own. Perhaps some day I'll get the first sub 5 average, although that seems out of reach for the time being.
Do you think there is a genetic advantage the top speedcubers have or is it all about practice/motivation? Can anyone break the current world records or do you think you need to have talent?
One factor that's really underestimated is time. I think that speedcubing is now at the point where if you didn't start cubing when you were really young, it'd be pretty tough to compete with the best cubers in the world (at least, at 3x3). I'd be surprised if any of the current top 50/100 cubers in the 3x3 average rankings started solving after they were around 14 to 15 years old. Some of them are even younger than that and already have low/sub 7 averages!
I would imagine there's a pretty strong correlation between time spent practicing, and speed, but some people do improve incredibly quickly, which lends itself to the idea of 'talent' in speedcubing. With regular sized hands and decent finger dexterity, there doesn't seem to be any sort of physical barrier. That being said, I don't think that *everyone* can turn as quickly as Max Park or Lucas Etter, and it's hard to pin down any specific reason why this is the case. Or, maybe it is just that they've practiced far more than the average cuber?
If you could give advice to people new to the community who are just starting out cubing and want to become world class, what would it be?
Make sure you start out cubing when you're 10 years old, and practice like crazy through primary and high school! Again, going back to the free time factor - I think that an 18/19 year old certainly has a greater capacity to learn cubing techniques, be self-critical, and improve more quickly than a 10 year old cuber, assuming they spend the same amount of time cubing. However, the average 18 year old is likely busy finishing high school, working, or moving into college, and so doesn't really have the required free time to become world class, at least at 3x3.
Besides that, I'd suggest trying to emulate the solves of fast cubers, as much as possible. There are endless solve reconstructions, example solve videos, etc. from fast cubers, and it's in that way that you'll be able to develop your speedsolving solutions. Turning speed and lookahead are things that come with time and practice, but it's good to keep on evaluating your own solves. If you record a video of your solves, you should be able to pick out the areas which need improvement, and go from there.
In 5 years, where do you see yourself both in cubing and in life in general?
Definitely still cubing, but I certainly won't be vying for world records at the age of 27. I imagine I'll be competing far less than I do now, but probably be involved a bit more on the organisational side of things in Australia. Cubing's such a fun hobby that I'm sure I'll have for the rest of my life. For other life stuff... I'm not sure, I haven't thought that far ahead yet. I'd like to be working at a job or in a field that I really enjoy, and one where I can always be learning new things.
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