The 2009 Rubik's Cube U.S. Nationals, which took place Friday through Sunday at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., is one of the best known annual Rubik's Cube events in the U.S. Launched in 2004, it draws competing puzzlers from more than a dozen countries.
The competition involves 18 events that test skills like puzzle solving speed, fewest moves, and even ability to solve the puzzle blindfolded from memory. There are also competitions for other puzzles, like Rubik's Magic, Megamix, Pyraminx, and the Rubik's Clock.
Here, Jameson O'Connor, of the U.S., collects his thoughts before competing in the 3x3x3 Blindfold qualification round, in which he scored a personal best time of 7.23 seconds.
In the event, a Rubik's Cube with 3 bricks on each side must be completed blindfolded. Players have to use memory tricks to recall the correct positioning and moves necessary to complete the puzzle.
The strongest competitors in the Rubik's Cube puzzle competitions are typically the 14- to 16-year-olds, according to U.S. Nationals organizer Tyson Mao. He estimates that with about 200 hours of practice, a Rubik's Cube enthusiast can become competitive in national competitions.