Another day, another world record
August 20, 2013
By Erin Hoffman
Liberty graduate sets new marks for Rubik’s Cube
The Riviera Convention Center is filled with excited chatter, but Kevin Hays remains focused, completely still except for his hands, which are fervently manipulating a 7-by-7 Rubik’s Cube.
He sits next to a large digital clock, which is timing his race to solve the cube down to a hundredth of a second, but he blocks out everything except the cube. However, when he completes the solve, he immediately drops his composure and jumps from his chair, yelling, “Yes!” with his hands in the air, as friends and other onlookers clap and cheer for him.
Hays has just set a world record.
At the Rubik’s Cube World Championships in Las Vegas July 26-28, Hays set the world record in the 7-by-7 average category, solving his cube three consecutive times with an average time of 2:54.77. This is not his first, or his only, world record. Hays, the world champion in the 5-by-5, 6-by-6 and 7-by-7 events, also holds the world records for the fastest single solve and the fastest average solve in the 6-by-6 category. In fact, Hays has set world records so many times that he has an entire playlist on his YouTube channel, where he posts videos of his competitions, titled “World Records.”
“When he sets a goal, he’s very motivated,” said Donna Hays, Kevin’s mother. “He works hard and practices a lot. We’re very proud of him.”
The 19-year-old Liberty High School graduate started solving Rubik’s Cubes, or “cubing,” on a ski trip during his freshman year of high school. Someone on the trip was speed cubing, and Hays was fascinated. He practiced during the trip, and when he went home, he started researching algorithms online.
“When I first started, I was practicing three hours a day, which is kind of a lot,” Hays said. “I dropped time pretty quickly.”
So quickly, in fact, that in the spring of 2009, just months after Hays learned of the existence of speed cubing, he placed fourth at the Rubik’s Cube U.S. Nationals.
“It’s amazing. I sit back and I think, ‘It’s just a cube,’ but there’s such a fascination with it,” Donna Hays said. “It’s mind-boggling sometimes.”
To get that fast, Hays memorizes hundreds of algorithms. He learns when to apply them based on the patterns on the face of the scrambled cube, and then he practices solving.
“If you do something over and over again, everything starts to come automatically,” he said.
Hays, who currently attends Washington University in St. Louis, in St. Louis, Mo., does not practice quite as much any more since graduating from high school in 2012. However, he finds time to do a few solves a day in between classes and swim team practice. In the month before the world championships, he trained for three hours a day, but the Rubik’s Cube is not his first priority anymore.
“I just won worlds, so that’s probably the best competition I’ll have for a while,” Hays said. “I don’t know how long I’ll be in world record territory. Other people will be practicing more than me and getting faster times.”
“I think it’ll definitely slow down when he’s at school,” his mother agreed. “It’s hard to go to competitions during the school year because WASHU isn’t near any competitions.”
While national and world competitions do have prize money, Hays does not intend to make Rubik’s Cubing his professional career. However, he does want to keep attending competitions for a while longer.
“It’s really fun and I get to travel around the country. I’ve gone to places I wouldn’t get to go otherwise,” he said.
In the future, Hays hopes to get a job in math or computer science. When he isn’t at school, he lives with his family in Renton.
On the Web
Watch videos of Kevin Hays solving various Rubik’s Cubes at www.youtube.com/user/26HTK.