Competing? Really?
You don’t skip the company’s annual golf tournament because you’re a doublebogey golfer. You go, drink a few beers, have a good time, and learn a thing or two from the guys who live on the course. At least that’s what I do.
And, metaphorically, that’s what I did when I decided to submit an entry into an online competition administered by cyoubx and Mitchell Lane. They provided scrambles for several events (2×2, 3×3, 4×4, pyraminx) and invited people to “compete” by submitting video responses showing their solves. It would be based on the honor system (no way to prevent people from filming themselves multiple times and submitting only their best), and there would be no prizes. The express purpose was “to ‘meet’ other cubers,” “to encourage personal improvement,” and to strengten “a sense of community” among cubers.
I knew there was zero chance I could win this thing, averaging around 42 seconds (with my better solves in the midthirties). But I dug the concept and the chance to try something different as part of the community. Minimally, like folks who film their golf swing for analysis, I figured that I could learn something about my technique.
Video Submission, Results
Here is the 3×3 video I submitted, with a best solve of 37 seconds and an average of five of 39 seconds I realize that the edits between each solve give the appearance of multiple attempts. And there were. But not the cheating of multiple solve attempts; worse, it was multiple scramble attempts!?! Halfway through each of the scrambles, I caught myself reversing (or at least worrying that I had reversed) the inverse/noninverses for Ds, Ls, and Bs. So I had to keep starting over to make sure I got each scramble right. Trust me, if I were going to cheat, I would have submitted better solves without glaring mistakes!?!
(music: “Impressions” by John Coltrane on The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings)
Here’s a table summarizing the results:
scramble  time  best 3  notes 
1
F’ L2 F’ R D2 R’ D’ R L B U’ L2 U2 L2 D2 F2 D R2 B2 R2 U’

37.04  37.04  0:32 — good cross; terrible X > F2L; average F2L; twolook OLL (#16); Na Perm 
2
R2 B2 L B2 U2 L2 B2 L D2 R2 U’ L’ B L’ B’ U’ F’ D R’

39.07  —  1:52 — average cross; weak F2L (excess hunting/rotations, 2nd pair fail); 2look OLL (#15); Jb perm 
3
D R2 F2 D’ F2 R2 F2 U2 F2 D2 R2 F U’ B’ R2 U2 R’ D2 B L’ B’

42.89  —  3:20 — average cross; weak F2L (mistakes, missed pairs); twolook OLL (#47); PLL fail (Jb done as Ja > Ua) 
4
F2 U2 B U2 F’ D2 F R2 B’ R2 F L D L D L’ D’ L D

38.36  38.36  4:50 — good cross; good F2L; twolook OLL (#11); FPerm (reconstructed below) 
5
R2 U2 B’ U2 F R2 F2 L2 B’ U2 B’ U’ L2 D’ B2 U L F’ R

38.15  38.15  6:09 — excellent (personal best) cross; weak F2L (4th pair fail); twolook OLL (#11); Ja Perm (reconstructed below) 
µ  39.102  37.85  
σ  5.85  1.32 
Analysis, Reconstruction
Until this competition, it never occurred to me to reconstruct any of my solves. A reconstruction is a turnbyturn annotated list of every move in a solve. Since a big motivation for participating in the competition was improvement and analysis, I thought it would be interesting to reconstruct a couple of the solves. Watching a solve in slow motion and really breaking down each decision reveals all sorts of interesting things and bad habits. Below are the reconstructions (with links out to an animations) of two solves. I chose these two because they were of similar length, each with acceptable crosses, smooth twolook OLLs, and quick PLLs, but with very different F2Ls. Solve four had pretty clean F2L without any glaring mistakes. Solve five featured a really messy fourth F2L insertion in which I got stuck with a corner in D, made a mistake, finally moved it up to U, and then paired and inserted. Watching the animated version shows just how many wasted moves and rotations resulted and really highlights the ironic importance of slowing down in order to get faster times.
Solve 4 (Animation):
U’ L’ U L // F2L1
y’ d U R U R’ U’2 R U R’ // F2L2
y’ d R U2 R’ U R U’ R’ // F2L3
y y’ R’ U’ R U U R’ U’ R U R’ U’ R // F2L4
y’2 F U R U’ R’ F’ y’ // firstlook OLL
U2 R U2 R2′ U’ R2 U’ R2′ U2 R // secondlook OLL
y y2 y R’ U2 R’ d’ R’ F’ R2 U’ R’ U R’ F R U’ F // F PLL
Solve 5 (Animation):
y’ y’ R’ U’ R // F2L1
U’ U’ y R’ U’ U’ R U’ R’ U R // F2L2
y’ R U’ R’ U d R’ U’ R // F2L3
U’ U’ y U’ L’ U’ L // F2L4 (screwup, get corner into U)
d U’ R U’ R’ d R’ U’ R // F2L4 (pair, insert)
F U R U’ R’ y’ R’ // firstlook OLL
F R U R’ U’ R U R’ U’ R U R’ U’ y’ R’ // secondlook OLL
U U y’ R’ U2 R U R’ z R2 U R’ D R U’ z’ // Ja PLL
One really interesting habit that these expose is my tendency to do d moves rather than U ones — holding the top layer and moving the bottom two layers, rather than the opposite. I’m not sure how that started or whether it’s a good or bad thing. But it’s something I should spend some time focused on as I practice.
Final Thoughts
The competition served all the purposes I expected: I learned a lot, had fun, and am excited to participate as part of the “community.” Looking back, here are few specifics on what I learned:
 For reasons that still make no sense to me, I get nervous on camera. I tried some of these scrambles again off camera and had 20% better times, without glaring mistakes. There’s not a lot that gets me nervous. So, I find completely baffling the fact that I got anxious about filming myself doing something I do all the time and as an entry into a contest I have no chance of winning.
 I made lots of mistakes that I don’t ordinarily make. I applied the wrong PLL once, sure. But I also missed (and accidentally split) F2L pairs that were right in front of me, misapplied some F2L moves, and hunted more than usual for edges.
 All five solves applied twolook OLLs, even though I knew at least one of them (solve 3’s #47). That probably did not increase my time much, since my twolook is realtively quick. But it’s frustrating that, under time pressure, I got lazy and twolooked it.
 My crosses were better — much better, in fact — than usual. I think the formality of using the generated scrambles and inspection time forced me to think about the first moves more carefully.
 Even with good crosses, I wasted a lot of time transitioning into F2L. I cannot visualize the first pair as part of my cross, and I’m not good at (haven’t really tried to learn…) look ahead. That’s next up.
 I need to spend more time using formal scrambles and less time hand scrambling. My scrambles were slow and inaccurate (leading to multiple clips). I’ll see more variety and will get used to more formality if I follow generated scrambles.
All told a great experience — a good time, with good lessons, as part of an opportunity to participate in the community!