Tel Aviv Geek Convention Stars Rubik’s Cube and the ‘Cubers’

Israeli Rubik’s Cube championship draws dozens of contestants aging between 6 and 32; 'When I want to relax at home I put on earphones and open a cube,' says organizer.

Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman
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Boys racing to solve Rubik’s cubes in Tel Aviv.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman

Some 150 people ages six to 32 found an interesting way to spend their Sukkot vacation — participating in the Israeli Rubik’s Cube championship, attempting to solve various versions of the world’s most popular puzzle.

The competition Tuesday and Wednesday at Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center is one of dozens held around the world and listed on the website of the World Cube Association.

The “cubers,” as they are known, served as both contestants and referees, since the entire event is managed on a voluntary basis. They rotated through four cube-shaped stands equipped with stopwatches to attempt the various challenges. One of the toughest competitions, attempted by only seven participants, was the blind competition, in which players had to try to solve the cube while blindfolded.

An entire cube culture has developed since the three-dimensional puzzle was invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and architecture professor Erno Rubik. Nowadays solutions for all cubes can be found in YouTube videos. Nevertheless, the toy remains popular, and fans can be part of a lively international community through social networks.

According to Alon Mezine, 12, of Jerusalem, the Internet has changed everything. “In 2005 the record [for solving the 3x3 cube] was really low, around 25-30 seconds; I could break that. Now the record for the 3x3 cube is 5.25 seconds. It’s because of the Internet.”

Lia Sobel, 13, of Tel Aviv, explained, “On YouTube there are videos about every cube that’s ever come out — how to solve it, how to do cool things, how to prepare for a competition.”

Mezine had a “gear cube” with him — a cube with a much more complicated and challenging mechanism than the standard cube. Collecting different types of cubes is the hallmark of a cuber; a new and developing field is printing cubes on 3-D printers.

Amit Sheffer, 30, of Oranit, one of the competition’s organizers, has 145 different cubes, including one made up totally of touch screens. The invitation to his upcoming wedding to Elina Dorfman included a photo of them posing with the cubes.

“When I want to relax at home I put on earphones and open a cube,” he says. Dorfman notes that whenever they travel he has to take a cube, and he asks for a new cube for every birthday. And if that’s not enough, Sheffer can’t get to sleep until all the cubes in his house are solved.

Only six of the 150 contestants were girls. “I think that girls should be encouraged to compete, and that they avoid it for the same reason that they avoid math and sciences,” said Lia’s mother.

Karine Fischer, 14 of Ma’aleh Adumim, had a hard time explaining the male dominance. She became facile with the cube after she broke her first one when she tried to solve it by separating the pieces. “I bought a new one and was so scared of breaking it that I learned how to solve it,” she said. “It’s fun to say I’m one of the best girls at this in Israel.”