Puzzle Goals (Chess, Rubik’s, and More)

When I created this site, my #1 goal was related to escape rooms, and pound for pound escape rooms are still my favorite way to experience puzzles. However, its still exciting to me to see so much love being given to puzzles of all kinds, and as an enthusiastic hobbyist, I’m looking to try all of them.

So with that note, I’ll mention a few goals/targets I have for the near future that are NOT related to escape rooms. I’ll likely repurpose a section of my website to track my exploits and progress toward these goals and others.

Jigsaw Puzzles: Goal – 500 piece puzzle completed < 90 minutes

During the lockdowns, I became very well acquainted with jigsaw puzzles. Previously, Christina and I would complete a puzzle together every several months. I never liked doing more than that because I was always disappointed taking apart something I had spent so much time putting together. Thankfully I’ve found it doesn’t hurt nearly as much when I take a picture afterwards and keep a log of how many puzzles I’ve completed!

When reading online about various jigsaw related ideas, I learned about various jigsaw puzzle competitions around the world. The most common competition is racing to solve a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle in the lowest amount of time. The championship winner last year completed one in about 48 minutes… So I’d like to see if I can do it in about double that. I may have to reassess if the gap is too big (I’ve never timed myself) but I think 90 minutes should be a fair target if I put a little thought into my approach and strategy.

Chess: Goal – Win one ranked online match against a “good” opponent

I never got into chess while I was growing up. I generally knew how the pieces moved, but I still can’t tell you where the king/queen start or when exactly I can castle. In about 2009 I dabbled with a copy of Chessmaster for the computer and took a few lessons, learning key terms like pins and forks, but I never got into the theory behind openings or how to rate a good position on the field.

A friend recommended me to Chess.com, and I’ve been delighted to see the level of analysis it gives me about my game. Even watching the “win probability” react when I make moves against the computer helps a lot. Whenever I played, my strategy was always to get my bishops and queen out as early as possible and try wreaking havoc with them. It doesn’t really work if you’ve got an opponent who defends his/her pieces.

Another favorite feature is the puzzles section on Chess.com, in which there’s a clear best move that may not always be immediately obvious. Practicing these has also helped me to recognize better when I can/can’t attack.

In my first three online games, I have 2.5 wins, but for bad reasons (running out the clock and having an opponent accidentally take away all my move options while not in check). My move accuracy as assessed by Chess.com is only about 30%, giving me a long way to go to improve.

Rubik’s Cube: Goal – Solve a cube in under a minute

I’ve been following Red Bull first and foremost for their broader mind games contests, but they’re also heavily involved in the competitive Rubik’s Cube scene. I was surprised when I heard that top Rubik’s players consistently solve the puzzle in under ten seconds, and I’m glad to see that competitive puzzling seems to be getting some mainstream exposure due to Rubik’s.

I’m also quite intrigued by the upcoming book by Rubik himself – “Cubed, The Puzzle of Us All.” Just from the title, it seems to echo some of my philosophy about the omnipresence of puzzles, recognized our not, and I’m looking forward to reading this one.

Personally I have no desire to practice enough to solve in under ten seconds, but doing it in under 60 could be a fun parlor trick to pull out at random moments. I saw Red Bull promoted a Guinness Record attempt for a livestreamed tutorial, and that’s probably as good as a starting point as any for me to try this out.

I’m not drawing the line there- there are plenty of other challenges to undertake in the world of puzzles. Let me know if you’ve got any puzzle goals, or if there’s anything else I should try out!

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