How to Figure Out Rubik's Cube

By Jack Ori
cube image by amlet from Fotolia.com

Rubik's cubes have been challenging children and adults since the 1970s. These colorful puzzles require the user to twist the faces of the cube in order to unscramble the pieces and make each face one color. Rubik's cubes require logical thinking and the understanding of patterns to solve. Once you understand the mechanics of how to solve the cube, you can solve almost any Rubik's cube.

Solving the Top

Choose a color to work with. You can choose whichever color you'd like.

Form a cross in the center of the side you are working with. Each edge of the cross should align with the adjacent sides. For example, if you are working with the orange face, the piece of the cross adjacent to the yellow side of the cube should be the orange/yellow piece.

Twist the faces of the cube to correctly place the corner pieces. When you are finished, the top face should be completely solved.

Solving the middle layer

Align the top layer of the cube with the sides. The top three pieces on each side should match the color of the center piece. For example, if your top is orange, the top layer of the yellow side should be yellow. You may need to twist the top face to move these pieces to the correct side of the cube.

Twist the bottom layer of the cube in order to form a T of a common color on one side of the cube. Turn the entire cube so that this side faces front. Examine the bottom of the cube. The piece you just moved into the T either belongs on the left side or right side of the cube.

If the piece belongs on the left side of the cube, use the following algorithm to move it. (Each step in the algorithm requires you to turn the face indicated one turn in the direction indicated.)

Bottom Clockwise, Left Clockwise, Bottom Counter-clockwise, Left Counter-Clockwise, Bottom Counter-Clockwise, Front Counter-Clockwise, Bottom Clockwise, Front Clockwise.

If the piece belongs on the right side of the cube, use the following algorithm to move it:

Bottom Counter-Clockwise, Front Counter-Clockwise, Bottom Clockwise, Front Clockwise, Bottom Clockwise, Left Clockwise, Bottom Counter-Clockwise, Left Counter-Clockwise.

Repeat step 2 and step 3 or 4 until the middle layer of the cube is completely solved.

Orienting the last layer edges

Flip the cube over so that the bottom face is now on top. Several pieces on the bottom may match the bottom cube color. These pieces form either a cross, a short L shape, or a line.

Perform an algorithm to form the cross unless it is already formed. If the cross is formed, move on to the next step.

If the pieces form an L, orient the cube so that one end of the L is on the top layer of the face and the other is on the left of the middle layer. Perform the following algorithm to change the L into a cross:

Front Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Top Counter-Clockwise, Right Counter-Clockwise, Front Counter-Clockwise.

If the pieces form a line, orient the cube so that the line is horizontal. Perform the following algorithm:

Front Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Right Counter-Clockwise, Top Counter-Clockwise, Front Counter-Clockwise

If there are no pieces of the correct color on the cube bottom other than the center piece, perform either algorithm. Recheck the bottom for one of the shapes and perform the correct algorithm.

Permuting the bottom corners

Examine your cube. Two corners of the cube should be in the correct place, although they will not necessarily be of the correct orientation. For example, if the bottom of the cube is red you may have a red-green cube and red-yellow cube in the correct places, but the green piece may be on the red face instead of the green piece.

If you cannot locate two corners that are correct, twist the cube bottom and recheck the cube.

Orient the cube so that the two incorrectly placed pieces are on the right side of the bottom. If the incorrect pieces are diagonal to each other, orient the cube so that one of the pieces is on the top right of the bottom.

Orient the cube so that the bottom face is on top and perform the following algorithm:

Left Clockwise, Top Counter-Clockwise, Right Counter-Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Left Counter-Clockwise, Top Counter-Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Top Clockwise

If the correct pieces were diagonal to each other, you will have to perform this step twice.

Orienting the bottom corners

Examine your cube. All four corners should be in the correct place, although not necessarily correctly oriented. At least one corner should be completely correct. Check whether the corners that are not oriented correctly must be twisted clockwise or counter-clockwise to be correct.

Orient the cube for solving the corners. The bottom face (the face you are working on) should be on the top of the cube.

If one corner is correct and the other corners must be twisted clockwise, orient the cube so that the correct corner is in the lower left position. If one corner is correct and the other corners must be twisted counter-clockwise, orient the cube so that the correct corner is in the upper left position. If two adjacent corners are correct, orient the cube so that the two correct corners are in the upper left and right positions. If two diagonal corners are correct, orient the cube so that the correct corners are in the upper right and lower left positions.

If three corners need to be twisted counter-clockwise, two diagonal corners are correct, or no corners are oriented correctly, perform the following algorithm:

Right Counter-Clockwise, Top Counter-Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Top Counter-Clockwise, Right Counter-Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Top Clockwise

If three corners need to be twisted clockwise or two adjacent corners are correctly oriented, perform the following algorithm:

Right Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Right Counter-Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Right Counter-Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Top Clockwise.

Examine your cube after performing the correct algorithm. If all four corners are not correctly oriented, repeat step 3 or 4. (The correct step to repeat depends upon the pattern of the incorrect pieces). Keep repeating these algorithms until all four corners are correctly oriented.

Permuting the bottom edges

Check the bottom of the cube. There are four possible patterns. One is that everything is in place, in which case the cube is solved. If not, 3-4 pieces of the cross on the bottom will be in the wrong place. The top, bottom and left edges, top, bottom, and right edges, or all four edges of the cross may be out of place. Orient the cube so that the bottom face is on top.

If the top, bottom, and right edges of the cross are misplaced, orient the cube so that the the wrong piece on the bottom belongs on the top, the wrong piece on top belongs on the right, and the wrong piece on the right belongs on the bottom. Perform the following algorithm:

Right Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Front Clockwise, Back Counter-Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Front Counter-Clockwise, Back Clockwise, Top Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Right Clockwise

The cube will be solved after you perform this algorithm.

If the top, bottom, and left edges of the cube are misplaced, orient the cube so that the misplaced top piece belongs on the bottom, the bottom piece belongs on the right, and the right piece belongs on top. Perform the following algorithm to solve the cube:

Right Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Top Counter-Clockwise, Front Clockwise, Back Counter-Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Front Counter-Clockwise, Back Clockwise, Top Counter-Clockwise, Right Clockwise, Right Clockwise

If all four edge pieces are in the wrong place, perform either algorithm. After you have performed it, re-examine the cube. Either 3 or 4 of the pieces will be misplaced as in Step 1. Perform the appropriate algorithm from Step 3 or 4 to solve the cube.