Vol. 11


Shame to Lose to You

1982; Shanghai, China"Shame to Lose to You" illustration: A small girl and a college student stand next to two Rubik's cubes on two tables.

My grandma told me something that I never knew — that in my family we have someone who won third place in a college Rubik’s Cube competition. In 1982 my mom, Tianyu Weng, participated in a Rubik’s Cube contest when she was six. With 41.05 seconds, Tianyu got third place. At that time Tianyu was only in kindergarten.

About six months before the competition, my grandpa Weichang Weng bought Tianyu her first Rubik’s Cube. When she first started, it took her about ten to twenty minutes to finish one side of the cube. After practicing by the manual, she could finish all six sides of the Rubik’s Cube in ten minutes all by herself. Normally, it takes about 130 steps to complete all six faces according to the manual. But one of my grandpa’s classmates discovered a new method to solve the Rubik’s Cube within 70 steps. Tianyu learned from this person and mastered the skills he taught her. After daily practice, she could solve all six faces within one minute.

Then one day my grandpa took Tianyu to his old college to visit. They ran into a campus Rubik’s Cube competition, and my grandpa asked if Tianyu could participate. Nobody thought she would win, so they allowed her to compete with those college students. Surprisingly, she beat all other competitors, to place first in the first round. The college students felt it was a shame to lose to a six-year-old, so they requested making the first round a preliminary round and having a new, final round. Before the contest started, they made the most difficult pattern of a Rubik’s Cube, in which each tile was a different color from the tiles next to it.

In the final round Tianyu was third to solve all six faces of the Rubik’s Cube, with a time of 41.05 seconds. This news spread very quickly, and a reporter from a very famous Shanghai evening newspaper even went to Tianyu’s kindergarten to interview her. She became the first one in our family to appear in a newspaper. In the report it says, “According to an American professor — James G. Nourse, the author of the book The Simple Solution to Rubik’s Cube: Anyone who can solve six faces within three minutes can be deemed a master. Tianyu did it under one minute, so she can be called a super master.”

My grandparents still keep the newspaper clipping that reported the event and interview with Tianyu. At that time, Tianyu, my mom, was only six years old, and she beat almost all college students who participated. My grandparents were very proud of her. So am I.

Author and illustrator: Benjamin Ni; Ohio, USA



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