My personal experience of the European Rubik's Championship in Paris, September 23/24, 2006.
I arrived at airport Charles de Gaulle near Paris around 1pm. My first impression of France? Ashtrays at the airport toilets. Getting to the hotel took another three hours and when I didn't see any cubers I called Ron and went to the competition venue after he told me they're there.
To enter the building I had to open my backpack, they're afraid of people with bombs. The competition area was easy to find, posters leading the way. I registered for the competition and enjoyed talking and racing with fellow cubers. Also met Dave and Chris from Seventowns again, and got to know Harri who was there to be a great emcee for the competition and surprised me by having read even a noncubing part of my website during her preparation. I think we were thrown out around 6pm and went back to the hotel. There? Cubing. Well, we got hungry. At some point Ron asked me what I'd like to eat and the way he said it made me ask "Am I supposed to decide for all of us?" to which he replied that for the evening I'm the boss. Yeah. I said pizza or Asian food. Eventually we did get out for dinner, the pizzeria we came across first was full but soon after we found an Asian restaurant. It was bright (good for us cubers) and almost empty (good for us nonsmokers).
I shared the hotel room with Constantin Ceausu, another cuber very much into blindcubing like I am. While ordering food I got an SMS from him saying he arrived at the hotel. I thought it was somewhat around the corner and quickly walked back but didn't find him. When I returned to the restaurant, guess who was there. The boy must have some sixth sense.
After dinner we got back to the hotel for more cubing in the lobby and I left around 11pm, the smoke had become too overwhelming and I felt bad. Took a walk to get some fresh air and buy some food for the next day. Then a little more cubing with Constantin in our hotel room.
We went to the competition venue around 9am, onehanded 3x3 was just about to start. This time I didn't participate in it, though, I only competed in 3x3, blind 3x3, blind multiple 3x3 and Megaminx. I would've liked to do blind 4x4 and blind 5x5 as well, but it was cancelled a few weeks before the competition. There are several reasons I dropped the other events. Mainly I rarely practiced them lately and I didn't think I could even beat my own personal records. Plus there was no prize money. How come there's quite a bit for 2x2 and 3x3 feet, but not for Clock? Finally, I wanted to travel with a backpack only so I was happy to leave some puzzles at home.
For Magic and Mastermagic I've now been beaten by far and I'm not motivated to try harder at them. Had some good times with them, now it's time to move on. Mainly I want to focus on blindcubing. Clock is similar to the magics, at least Matyas beats me unofficially by far and I feel a little demotivated and that my time with it is over. Afterwards though I wish I had participated at least in Clock. I also missed doing 4x4, 5x5 and Square-1, will ask Ron to change my Dutch Open registration.
My first event was 3x3 first round. Recently I improved and got a 16.45 seconds average of 100 so I wasn't really happy with my 17, 19 and 17 seconds. But it was enough to advance to the next round, so it was alright. Plus I was ahead of Dan Harris, one of my two friendly nemeses. After a break and lunch came the two events I was looking forward to most.
First multiple 3x3 blindfolded. I was one of five cubers attempting to solve five cubes, some of us had agreed on that number before the competition, mostly because I had done four cubes last year. At home I can do it in 40-45 minutes but in Paris I opted for safety, took my time and relaxed. While blindfolded I heard Clement next to me put cubes down on the table fairly quickly, but I ignored it. Told myself I don't care if he's faster, I just wanted to get it right. I ended up successful after 1 hour and 7 minutes, incidentally the same time as for my previous four cubes record. The others were still twisting, I guess what I had heard was Clement putting down cubes between solution steps, not only between cubes. Sadly none of the others succeeded, and I say that very honestly, because getting multiple or large cube blindsolving right is such a good feeling and I would've been happy for them even if they had beaten me. Constantin was very close, making a single mistake. There were some other successful attempts and several unsuccessful, altogether we were nine people doing multiple blindsolves.
Then my main event, the Megaminx. My first time was ok, 1:34 plus penalty because I locked up and didn't get the last turn at all so it was off by a fifth turn. A little worse and it would've been DNF and since it was a combined best-of-1/mean-of-3 this would've meant the end for me. Second solve was a nice 1:29, happy with that. Third solve was quite fast but since I knew it, I got very nervous and my hands began shaking terribly. Still it was very good until I screwed up the very last step completely, permuting LL corners. Stupid unnecessary mistake that occurs from time to time and that I don't know how to fix the right way (should be fairly easy to just undo the moves but so far I'm too arrogant to look for it, telling myself instead to just not do that mistake again). After noticing it I looked at the timer and saw 1:26. It should've become a sub1:29 solve. Then I dropped the puzzle onto the mat, being disgusted by my stupidity, and turned away. I was ready to call it a DNF but fortunately realized that I shouldn't do this in mean-of-3. So I continued the solve and ended up with 2:27. The average was still good enough to win, but with Erik and Dan there's some competition on the way. Dan broke 2 minutes, fastest official time ever by anyone except me, and both of them averaged just a bit over two minutes. Erik is very good until LL, if he improves there then he'll be a lot faster and I won't get away with bloopers like that anymore.
I watched, talked and raced until we were thrown out again and we went for dinner again. This time we got into a pub that wasn't so nice, people smoking in there and after that darn waiter refused three times to take my order for food, I just left. Constantin joined me and we got into a pizzeria nearby. Excellent pizza and for the most part no smoke. I'm very happy I left the pub, should've never entered it. In the future I won't, even if that means I'll be alone. I don't need to meet people in smoky places. We were soon joined by two Italian cubers and their girlfriends and since Constantin lives in Italy, they were speaking Italian most of the time while I enjoyed my pizza. Mmh, yummy.
Back at the hotel lobby we met the other cubers again and I raced Ron, Ton, Gunnar and Kare with 3x3 for a long time. I'm happy to say I won a few times, showed me again that I improved and made me look forward to better times in the second competition round. After a while we stopped when all of us stayed sub20 in one round, feeling that was a good way to finish. I could've continued with other cubers but at that time two or three people started smoking and so I went upstairs and had some blindcubing discussion with Constantin who was already there cause he's apparently used to going to bed way earlier than me.
First was 3x3 blind and I was very pleased with two successful solves, 3:03 and 4:09. Turned out the former was enough to give me second place in the first round, though far behind Francois and his 2:27. The 3x3 second round was not so nice, 19.03 average is much slower than what I can do. I also was behind Dan again, though just now I see I was ahead of Ron! Incredible. Too bad it wasn't because of me being fast but him being slow. Michel, my other friendly nemesis, broke his German single and average records. I don't really care about them being German records, but I have a good friendly rivalry with Michel, he helped me become much faster at F2L and I like to compete with him and hope to beat his records some day.
Around noon I was ready for speed blindfolded. Ron said I didn't register (not sure what happened, I thought I did, maybe it wasn't an option in the first version of the registration form) and he wasn't happy with squeezing me into the schedule, but I promised it wouldn't take me long to be ready and he let me do it. I took 25 minutes to plan and memorize the solve and would've been ready after half the time already. I didn't intend to use a speedsolving method but rather my blindsolving method with instant recall and some shortcuts. I did use my blindsolving method for the edges without shortcuts, didn't see any. One corner was solved, two only misoriented and the others were a 5-cycle. So that was three steps, one orientation and two 3-cycles I made up with 8-move commutators. On stage I sadly confused the corner orientation algorithm with an edge 3-cycle algorithm because they start the same way. I noticed and reversed, tried again, failed again, tried again, failed again but noticed it in the middle of the alg and got confused and had to give up. Ron let me try again unofficially and I got 31 seconds but I had misplanned one corner 3-cycle so two corners were left misoriented. Still, I was fairly satisfied since it was my first ever attempt at this and the time was good. Plus, Clement and Geir were faster anyway.
After lunch I scrambled for the Clock final, a very tedious task I can assure you. But once you've done a scramble a few times you get used to it and become much faster. Also, Jaap joined me and helped scrambling and together we scrambled faster than necessary for continuous competition. Still I think it would be good for scrambling if everybody could do the first scramble, then everybody the second and so on. Because then the getting-used-to-the-scramble effect is best.
During the scrambling I noticed some TV crew interviewing Antonio Gallego for a long time. When I took a short break close to the end of the Clock final, they were finished and the reporter asked whether I'm Stefan Pochmann and said he'd like to interview me, too. I'm glad that never happened as I rather wanted to spend my time with the cubers than with the media.
A little later was the 3x3 blindfold final. First I got a successful 3:49, surprising me a bit because it had felt slow and my practice average is about 4 minutes. The second solve was quite fast for me but I made a stupid mistake I do every now and then, causing me to end up with two misoriented corners. I didn't even look at the time but others said it was 2:57 so it was indeed fast for me. Would've been nice to succeed on all nine cubes I attemped overall. Anyway, my 3:49 was good enough to get second place (and a sweet 250 Euros cheque). And Matyas won using my method so that made me proud, too.
After some guys contaminated cubes and timers with their feet, it was time for the 3x3 final. I did a bit better, 18.57 average. Still not happy with that of course. Then the inevitable winner ceremony. Nothing spectacular there. I was just surprised when the kid that had been crawling on the floor in front of me turned out to be the youngest competitor.
At the end, Dave told us that they're trying to get a venue in Budapest for the world champs next year but that it's not final yet because it's a government building and takes some time to negotiate or whatever. Then we went to a restaurant with an area reserved for us in the same building for sort of an after party. Some good snacks (salmon sandwich, yummy), a little more cubing and a good riddle Guus Razoux-Schultz tortured us with. Also, many people left to travel home. One of us had the decency to walk outside for smoking, someone else sadly didn't and polluted the air for the rest of us. I'll never understand how these people can have this little to no respect for others. When we left the restaurant... um... darn I should've written this earlier, I already forgot. Probably we cubed more in the hotel.
Constantin and I had breakfast with Lars Vandenbergh, first time I had breakfast in the hotel. Eventually of course people around us started smoking and we left. Well, we were pretty much finished anyway, though I would've liked to get the hot chocolote I had just discovered.
Lars and I had some more time to spend in Paris and we decided to take the metro to the city center and do some sightseeing. First goal was the Eiffel Tower and when we arrived we thought about getting records for cubing on it but we realized it would be way cooler to do it *under* the Eiffel Tower. Admittedly we also realized we had all our luggage with us. But mainly it was cooler, really. We cubed maybe for half an hour and got some people watching us from nearby, though it somewhat stopped once we put on pullovers. I guess we looked sexier in our t-shirts, particularly Lars in his "cubefreak" one. For the record, my best nonlucky time was 14.5 and I got a lucky 12.5 once (or was that the one with the one move cross?). Lars got at least one 14, don't know about his other times because he was faster than me most of the time.
We walked a little further to the Arc de Triomphe and after wondering how to get to it (there's heavy traffic all around it) we found the tunnel. We looked around a bit and cubed some more. A group of Argentinean girls asked us how we do it and I got weak and showed a bit but solving the last cross edge with a finger trick demolished their attention. After they left we did one more solve and I got a nonlucky 13.5 so I believe I should've asked them to be my lucky charms in competitions.
We didn't have much time left and went back to the Gare du Nord where we said goodbye after a great sandwich lunch and promising to practice, me the 5x5 and Lars the Megaminx. We had been discussing them in the metro and while walking around and I promised I'll average sub2:30 for 5x5 at the Dutch Open. It was a fun day despite the short time.
The competition itself was great, I only wish I had participated in more events. Meeting other cubes was as awesome as always. The whole trip sadly causes mixed feelings because of all the smoke, I don't want to visit this France again (not that Germany is any better, though). Anyway, thanks a lot to the competition organizers doing an excellent job, Dave, Chrisi, Harri, Ron, Ton, Jaap, Gilles, judges and scramblers, whoever I forgot or didn't notice working behind-the-scenes... thanks! End of report, now have a look at the competition results, infos, etc at speedcubing.com.
Last modified: November 08 2007, 15:38:34