Rubik's Cube competitors twist and shout
The Rubik's Cube. For many, its name alone invokes painful memories of frustration and failure. But for participants at the Vancouver Open 2009 Rubik's Cube competition, the world-famous 1980s puzzle is no longer synonymous with struggle -- but speed.
At the Crystal Mall food court in Burnaby, B.C., a host of competitors await their next challenge. Some events require blind-folds. Others are single-handed. There is no room for amateurs.
Co-organizer Vince Yim, 32, has been playing with Rubik's Cubes since he was a child.
"I had a Rubik's Cube when I was a kid, like everybody else in the '80s," Yim said. "And, like everybody else in the '80s, I peeled off the stickers to win."
But with the arrival of the internet, Yim says the mysteries of the Rubik's Cube were revealed. Suddenly, anyone could solve it. The real challenge became speed.
The current world record for fastest Rubik's Cube solve is 7.08 seconds, set by Erik Akkersdjik in 2008 - but the challengers in Burnaby aren't far behind.
"We've been seeing some times going as low as 10.38 seconds," Yim said. "But average times are about 13 to 15 seconds."
Along with representatives from Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United Sates, David Campbell, the Canadian delegate of the World Cube Association, is present at the event. The WCA was formed to regulate and organize Rubik's Cube competitions -- and no records can be set without the association's participation.
Yim admits there is a certain level of pressure in the competition, but insists that Rubik's events are more about fun than anything.
Earlier this year, Yim and some of his fellow Rubik's enthusiasts tried to gain publicity for the open by hosting Bleedsolve 2009 -- where they single-handedly solved Rubik's Cubes while donating blood to the Canadian Blood Services.
"I was able to solve seven Rubik's Cubes one handed while giving blood," Yim said. "It was a lot of fun. I just wish we were able to get a little more coverage on it."
Despite Yim's disappointment, his idea may have worked after all. Almost twice as many competitors showed up to this year's open, a promising development for Yim and his friends.
"We're all having a great time here and we want to make sure the scene grows," he said.
"It's a great activity for anybody. People say it's so impossible, but it's like everything else in life -- it seems hard until you practice it."