As most of you probably know by now, I went to China for 10 days to compete in the Chinese Championship, along with a little bit of tourism.
Having never been to China before, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. If the procedure for getting a visa was anything to go by, I expected it to be somewhat intimidating. Hence, I was very surprised at being able to breeze through immigration on arrival in Guangzhou, and generally how safe I felt throughout the entire trip.
We were picked up at the airport on Friday the 25th of September by Gan (owner of ganspuzzle) and Ming Zheng, a Chinese WCA delegate. In the morning, we visited YueXiu park, and the Guangzhou Museum, on what was the hottest day in our time there.
On the weekend of the 26th and 27th, we visited Hong Kong, which was just a 2-hour train ride from Guangzhou. We saw as much of the city as we could in the limited time we had available. One highlight was hiking up Victoria Peak in very humid conditions - It was cloudy, but the views were still pretty great.
Here’s Mats’ solve video from the top of the peak:
The next morning, Monday the 28th, we visited Canton Tower, which was briefly the tallest tower in the world. Believe it or not, the view here was also stunning. We probably spent too much time cubing up the top, as opposed to observing.
On Tuesday, Gan took us to these amazing gardens just outside of Guangzhou. I’d never seen anything like it, an empty, peaceful place filled with beautiful plants, lakes, ponds, architecture, and more. It was very entertaining feeding the goldfish – as soon as you threw any fish food into the water, it became a feeding frenzy.
That afternoon, we were lucky enough to visit Gan’s studio and factory. His factory, being the place where all of the plastic is made, wasn’t overly interesting. The studio is where all of the cubes are assembled, and serves as the home base for the business. We spent an hour or two there with him and a few of his employees, having a look around, and of course testing plenty of cubes. It was very interesting to be able to actually see the origins of the speedcubes we use. Collin, Mats, and Antoine visited the Yuxin, Mofangge, and Moyu factories respectively, and I’m sure they saw something similar.
One cool thing you can do with the new Gan cube boxes is to make a really large functional 2x2, it’s pretty neat.
On Wednesday we visited Beijing road, a temple, and the Chen Clan Academy, a school established in 1894, which now houses the Guangdong Folk Art Museum.
In the evening I visited the competition venue, a high school in Guangzhou (which had almost 2000 students). The main theatre had over 600 seats, and from memory they used 24 timers on the main stage. Despite the massive scale of the competition (over 500 competitors), it really just felt like any other competition, but rounds simply took more time.
On the evening before the competition, Gan was kind enough to host a welcoming party at a buffet restaurant – around 90 cubers showed up, and it was very enjoyable. Lots of photos, autographs, and of course, cubing.
After all of this, it was time to compete!
Having all of us international guests present was a huge novelty for many Chinese competitors, to say the least. It reached the point where we actually became a nuisance for the organisational team, as people would be blocking the walkways around us, so we took refuge in the staff room.
One thing that was very apparent is that cubing is very commercialised in China – which makes sense given that most speedcube manufacturers are from China. It was funny and interesting having the owners of all the major cube brands at the competition, and we were all given more cubes than we could count, in the hope that we would use them. Without going into too much detail, it seemed that some cube companies didn’t really get along with one another, which I found hilarious.
It’s always cool to see the slight differences in the way competitions are run all around the world. In China, their system (at least for this competition) was to have each competitor complete their 5 solves whilst remaining seated at the exact same station, which I thought worked very well. It means the competitors don’t have to be constantly alert and listening for their name whilst waiting, and you can sit down at the station and relax. There is also less foot-traffic, as competitors stay in the same location. The disadvantage is that the timers aren’t in constant use, but this is partially offset by the lack of waiting time that is caused by calling a competitor in the ‘standard’ competition system.
Overall, the weekend was very exciting – managed to somehow get a 21 on 4x4 despite not having seriously practiced 4x4 for ages. Came close to a sub 50 5x5 average, but that one will have to wait.
The 3x3 final was by far the most competitive final in history. The mean average of the top 5 competitors was 7.87. To give some perspective, Jiayu Wang in 5th place with 8.21 would have won every US Nationals and Euros in history (Except for Euros 2014), and placed 2nd at Worlds 2013 and 2015. Antoine’s 4th place average, 8.02 would have achieved all of the above, as well as winning Worlds 2013 and tying Alex Lau’s average at Euros 2014.
Fun fact for the weekend: All 4 of my 4x4 averages were 28 or 29, yet I didn't have a single 28 or 29 second solve.
Thanks again to Gan, for making this possible, and of course to all the Chinese cubers - organisers, staff, and competitors, for having us.