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One in 43 Quintillion by Moran Cerf

Let’s start with a summary of what I hope everyone reading this will remember: There was an international world championship, and I scored first.

Now… I can add a little color to the story (and potentially change your impression of me). The competition was… the World Rubik’s Cube championship. And the ranking, well, I was #1… in my age group. There was only one more person in that group…

The Rubik’s cube was invented by Ernő Rubik, a Hungarian professor of architecture, 46 years ago. With over 450 million cubes sold worldwide, it is ranked the world’s best-selling puzzle game and toy. It is still quite a nerdy toy despite its popularity.

To amplify the nerdiness, here are some more facts about the cube. There are 43 quintillion (18 zeros) combinations that can be arranged of the cube (if you stack them in a tower, it will be 261 light-years high), or 519 quintillion if you consider all possible arrangements, including breaking them. I tried most of them during the competition, unfortunately.

Most kids (average age: ~10) who participated in the world championship solved it in 5-30 seconds, and they did not place as finalists! I did it in 2 minutes. The referee had to be woken up since he fell asleep waiting for me to be done.

The full day of competition had a lot of tournaments. Solving the classic 3x3x3 cube, a 4x4x4 and 5x5x5 ones. Solving the cube with only one hand, blindfolded, and various other (weirder) things.

Nonetheless, the room was exhilarated throughout. I went there with my 8-year-old nephew, who ranked 29 in the overall score. In the end, three people took most of the prizes. They apparently are the Rubik’s world’s undefeated champions for the last several years.

The world record (3.13 seconds) is held by Max Park, who nailed it just six months ago in the previous competition. Let’s see how Max does when he is in his 40s…

There’s a famous joke about a 100m race championship conducted between an American athlete and a Soviet one. The American won. The day after, the Soviet news headlines stated: “Yesterday there was a 100m race. The Soviet athlete came second, and the American came one before last”.

While the tournament got more heated during the final rounds, the day’s winner was definitely… Fortnight. Epic Games dropped their new Fortnight upgrade that day, and at some point, all the participants (read, all kids) congregated around a big screen and counted down, ecstatic, to the moment the new release emerged. Priorities.

I still bet I will beat all of them in a 1:1 basketball match. So there!