A neonbrand Rubiks Cube

Rubik’s Cube Algorithms and Notation

The Rubik’s Cube. It’s the world’s most famous and best selling puzzle. It’s such a simple puzzle but it has been confusing and frustrating challenge seekers ever since its release. This has millions of puzzlers asking “How to solve the Rubik’s Cube?”


The secret to solving the Rubik’s Cube is what are known as “algorithms”. Most people have heard of the word but many of these people instantly get intimidated and think only geniuses know the correct ones and how to apply them properly. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!

Oxford defines an algorithm as “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations”. Yes, there are certain algorithms that you will need when solving the Rubik’s Cube. But they are not impossible to figure out or learn like most people think.

Rubik’s Cube Notation

To come up with or learn any of the algorithms used when solving a Rubik’s Cube, one must become familiar with Rubik’s Cube Notation. It’s fairly simple. A face move/turn on the Rubik’s Cube is represented by a single letter. This letter can be accompanied by a comma or the number ‘2’. For beginners method, the 90 degree clockwise move and the letter that represents each move is as follows:

  • U – Up (top)
  • D – Down
  • L – Left
  • R – Right
  • F – Front
  • B – Back
  • M – Middle slice

If the letter in an algorithm is accompanied by a comma, then that means you turn that face counterclockwise instead of clockwise. For example, R means turn the right face clockwise 90 degrees, but R’ means turn the right face counterclockwise 90 degrees.

If the letter has a ‘2’ after it, that means turn the corresponding face twice, or 180 degrees. So, for example, R2 means turn the Right face 180 degrees. The direction of the turn doesn’t matter in this case since you will end up with the same result whether you make the 2 turns clockwise or counterclockwise.

Rubik’s Cube Algorithms

Now that we understand what an algorithm is and proper Rubik’s Cube notation, it’s time to learn some algorithms! Here’s a quick and easy algorithm that when performed 6 times on a solved Rubik’s Cube will return the cube back to its original, solved state: U R’ U’ R x6 or all spelled out (U R’ U’ R) (U R’ U’ R) (U R’ U’ R) (U R’ U’ R) (U R’ U’ R) (U R’ U’ R)

The best Rubik’s Cube solvers are the ones that recognize the best algorithm that needs to be applied for any given situation. Often times, there will be multiple algorithms that can be done to achieve the same step of the solve. However, the trick is quickly determining which algorithm will complete the step you are on and also set the puzzle up to easily complete the next step.

For example, performing a last layer orientation algorithm could also permute the last layer pieces at the same time, thereby completing 2 steps with one algorithm and solving the cube. Like we stated previously, having this “look-ahead” skill is difficult but it is how the world’s fastest Rubik’s Cube solvers can be so quick. The only way to learn such recognition is practice, practice, and more practice!

Luckily, a lot of the Rubik’s Cube solution is intuitive–meaning no algorithms are required. You only really need algorithms to complete the last layer. In the CFOP beginners method, algorithms are used mostly in the O (orient the last layer-OLL) and P( permute the last layer-PLL) steps.

For OLL, there are 57 different algorithms to learn and for PLL, there are 21 different algorithms to learn. Each of the algorithms is around 10-12 moves long. Now that’s a lot of memorization!

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