How to solve a rubik’s cube? Algorithms Explained

Although you may think you can smash a rubik’s cube with enough random twisting and spinning, there’s actually a crazy method.

There’s nothing like the satisfaction of solving a puzzle – but sometimes, no matter how hard we try, success eludes us. For those picking up a Rubik’s Cube for the first time, it might seem like solving the puzzle is just a matter of time, determination, and a bit of luck.

But, there is actually a method to madness of a rubik’s cube, for those who are really determined to see the finished cube.

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Here’s how to solve a rubik’s cube.

Rubik’s cube notation

Before starting the actual resolution, we must first divide the cube into different categories to facilitate the description of the actions in progress.

On most Rubik’s Cube resources, the puzzle is divided like this:

  • F (front): the front face, facing the solver
  • B (back): the back side, opposite the front side
  • R (right): the right side
  • L (left): the left face, opposite the right face
  • U (top): the upper side
  • D (bottom): the lower face, opposite the upper face

A single letter means to turn this face 90 degrees clockwise in a single turn, for example F.

A competitor runs against the clock in the 5x5x5 event at the World Cube Association (WCA) World Championships held in Melbourne on July 14, 2019 (Photo: WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

A letter followed by an apostrophe means to turn this face 90 degrees counter-clockwise in a single turn, for example F’.

A letter followed by a 2 means to rotate that face 180 degrees (aka a double turn) eg, F2.

A rubik’s cube is made up of 26 pieces:

  • A corner piece, which has three different colored stickers on it
  • An edge piece, which has two different color stickers on it
  • A middle piece, which only has a color sticker on it

First step: solve the white cross

You are going to want to start your cube solving journey by starting with the white face of the puzzle.

This step can be a bit confusing for rubik’s cube beginners, so take your time and you’ll get there in the end.

You will notice on your rubik’s cube that the center pieces on each side (called a face) cannot be moved to another location, only rotated – so you will use this to your advantage when starting your rubik’s cube.

To start, you’ll want to gather every white edge to the top face of the cube – you don’t have to worry too much about making sure the center is also white, just focus on the edges.

Once you’ve done this you’ll need to flip some of the edges around so all the white stickers are facing up to make a plus.

This is your guide to solving a Rubik’s cube (Graphic: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg)

Hold your cube so that one of the edges to flip is facing you, then apply this algorithm: F, R’, D’, R, F2

This algorithm will flip the edge so that the white part is facing up – repeat this for each edge until you have a white cross on top.

Next you will need to orient these pieces – what you are looking for is that the other color on the other sticker of your white edge piece lines up with the colored sticker in the center of each face.

If you don’t have any matches, you’ll need to perform a U move and then look at your cube again. You want to have at least two matches. If none of them are aligned yet, make another U motion and repeat until you have two or four edges matching their centers.

If you only have two of your matching edge and center stickers, you may be in one of two scenarios.

Either the two corresponding edges are adjacent to each other or they are opposite to each other.

If it is adjacent, hold the cube so that the two solved pieces face the front and left of the cube, then apply this algorithm: R’, U, R, U’, R’

If the corresponding edges are opposite, hold the cube so that they are on the left and right faces and run this algorithm: R2, L2, U2, R2, L2

In theory, your white cross should now be resolved.

Second step: the white corners

Now that you have figured out your white edges, the next step is to fix the white corners as well.

This step should be easier to perform because it only requires one algorithm.

Now look at the bottom layer of the rubik’s cube – you’re looking for the white-orange-green corner. There’s a 50% chance it’s on the bottom layer.

These are the steps you need to follow depending on where the corner is for you.

Competitors take part in the Rubik’s cube world championship in Saint Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, on July 16, 2017 (Photo: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images)

If the corner is at the bottom of the puzzle, perform the required D moves so that the corner is at the bottom right in your cube. You may need to run this algorithm multiple times in order to get it where it needs to be: R’ D’ RD

If the corner is at the top of the puzzle, hold your cube so that the corner is at the top right corner of your cube and again perform the same action as before: R’ D’ RD

Now that the corner is down, you can refer to the instructions above.

Keep repeating this process until the top layer is resolved.

Third step: solve the edges of the intermediate layer

Now that you’ve solved the white face of your cube, flip your rubik’s cube over so the white layer is on the bottom.

Look for an edge that is on the top face and has no yellow on it. There may not be, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Make a U-shaped motion so that the color on the front side of the edge matches the center.

The edge can go in two directions, left or right.

A competitor attempts to solve the Rubik’s cube during the final day of the German Rubik’s Cube Championships 2010 in the ‘classic category’ 3x3x3 cube in the western German town of Bottrop, September 12, 2010 ( Photo: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP via Getty Images)

If the edge must go into the space to its left, do this algorithm: U’ L’ ULUF U’ F’

Alternatively, if it should go to the right, do this instead: UR U’ R’ U’ F’ UF

If there are no edges left on the top layer, then they’re probably in the right place but need to be flipped – or they’re in the wrong place.

To pop an edge out of a place it shouldn’t be, just insert one of the yellow edges into this slot – this should pop the edge out and onto the top layer, ready to use the algorithm above to locate it properly.

Now repeat this process for the four middle edges.

Fourth step: solve the yellow cross

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You are not two-thirds of the way through solving your rubik’s cube.

Every piece left to solve has yellow somewhere – so what we’re going to do now is solve the edges of the toy layer in two steps, which will orient all the pieces so that the yellow side is facing up to each of them .

Ignore the corners of your cube for now and just focus on the edges. Either none, all, or two of the edges will be oriented correctly, with the yolk facing up.

There are four possible edge positions for your yellow square – no edges and just the center yellow square, an L shape through the center square, a line through a center square, or the cross shape.

If your edges are resolved into a plus shape like the cross we made at the start of this tutorial, you can skip this step – if not, keep reading.

Feliks Zemdegs holds the Guinness World Record for solving a rubik’s cube in 4.22 seconds (Photo: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP via Getty Images)

If you have a point, use the following algorithm three times. If you have a yellow L shape, do it only twice and if you have a line, do it only once.

Holding the cube with the yellow on the upper side, do: FRU R’ U’ F’

After making the yellow cross on top of the cube, you need to do what you did with the white cross previously and fill in the edge pieces.

With yellow still on the top side, use this algorithm: RU R’ UR U2 R’ U

You may find that you need to do this more than once.

Now is the time to put the yellow corners back in place.

Find a piece that is already in the right place and move it to the upper right front corner and use this algorithm to swap the three bad pieces: UR U’ L’ UR’ U’ L

Do this twice to reverse spin the pieces. If none of the yellow corners are in the right place to start, apply the algorithm until you get one in the right place.

Fifth step: orient the yellow corners

To complete your rubik’s cube, you will need to orient your yellow corners. This can be a confusing step, so take your time.

Hold the cube so that an unresolved corner is in the upper right front corner and run this algorithm two or four times until this piece is correctly oriented: R’ D’ RD

Three-time Hungarian national Rubik’s Cube champion Hunor Bozsing demonstrates how to solve a Rubik’s Cube (Photo: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

If it looks like you’ve screwed up your cube completely, don’t worry! This is to be expected at this stage.

Rotate the top layer only to move another unresolved yellow piece to the front upper right corner and do the same R’ D’ RD until the specific piece is in the correct spot. Be careful not to move the bottom two layers when doing this – and certainly don’t rotate the entire cube.

Repeat until your cube is solved.

Sharon D. Cole