Paul Mahvi of El Dorado Hills stands in front of his Rubik's Cubes and other puzzle cube collection. He owns more than 100. Village Life photo by Julie Samrick

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Speed cuber widens his range

By From page A1 | July 05, 2017

How does one perfect his craft more than solving a Rubik’s Cube in 6 seconds? For Oak Ridge High School senior Paul Mahvi, who we first featured in 2015 for his dizzying Rubik’s Cube and other shape puzzle solves — which have earned him the nickname Speed Cuber —  it’s becoming an expert in his industry and even planning his own World Cubing Association-sanctioned event later this month in El Dorado Hills.

Paul, 17, has competed in 40 competitions, approximately one a month and one a week this summer. In the various solve categories, he has earned a total of eight gold awards, 18 silver and 25 bronze. He recently left El Dorado Hills to travel with his parents, John and Stephanie Mahvi, and younger sister Elizabeth, to compete at the Rubik’s Cube World Competition in Paris July 13-16, but first he’ll compete at the Big Cubes competition in Dusseldorf, Germany, July 8-9.

“The first step is the hardest,” Paul said of his solving approach. “When I teach people I tell them to first make the top one color … The first step in a solve is intuition. The last step is memorization.”

As with many things, “The first step is where things can go wrong,” Paul added.

In 2015 Paul talked about studying algorithms and memorizing strategies to perfect his technique and as a way to bring his 6-second solve time even faster. “Learning more won’t get you too much faster,” he said during an interview last week. “I’m already at that point.”

And while the Square 1 type of puzzle used to be the most difficult for him, Paul now says, “None are harder; some just take longer.”

Paul owns more than 100 cubes, spheres and other shaped puzzles. “Every time he gets money for Christmas be buys more,” his mother Stephanie said.

What’s become his biggest challenge now is serving as a judge and a scrambler at competitions. To be a scrambler, a computer gives him a random scramble and then Paul sets off down a line of competitors to manually set each cube up in the exact same way to start the competition. It takes him about 5 seconds to set up each one.

“As a scrambler, you have to do it in a specific way to keep it fair,” Paul said. “As a judge the hardest part is not knowing whether to disqualify someone or not. One time the lights kept going out. Sometimes timers reset if you hit them too hard.”

Paul, a math whiz who plans to major in math, engineering or physics in college, said he knows what to do with those glitchy competition timers. “I know how to fix them,” he said. “Put a capacitor in each one. Timers shut off automatically at 10 minutes, but a capacitor will keep it going.”

“He’s made a big jump in the past two years,” Stephanie said. “Being a judge and a scrambler takes a lot of concentration. Not a lot of people can do it.”

Paul is hosting a Rubik’s Cube competition at Silva Valley Elementary soon. “I’ve wanted to set up a competition,” he said. “Most people have to travel at least two hours to go to one.”

He has arranged for a World Cubing Association delegate to be at the event. A fee is required to register but spectators may watch for free. Participants must register in advance by visiting worldcubeassociation.org/competitions. Paul also hosts a YouTube tutorial at: Paul Mahvi.

Julie Samrick

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