The young polish mnemonist Marcin “Maskow” Kowalczyk can solve 41 Rubic’s Cubes blindfolded in an hour. This colorful brain twister toy became highly popular again in the last decade and people from all over the world are training to solve it in an instant. But Marcin is striving for a bigger challenge: The eternal blindfolded crown.
Memory-Sports: Before we dive into the memory stuff, tell us a little bit about you. What are doing for your living?
Marcin: At the moment I am a professional speedcuber and mnemonist. I am not rich but I am working on it.
Memory-Sports: Your case is different to my other interviews so I am not quite sure where to start. Let’s try it that way: What came first for you? Was it the square egg (Rubic’s Cube) or the hen (Memory Techniques)?
Marcin: The cubes came first. Maybe this is why I am a world record holder in solving cubes blindfolded and not in memory championships. It was strange to realize that the most interesting part for me in solving them is the memorization process. But cubes came first and I cannot leave them alone.
Memory-Sports: What do you like about the Rubic’s Cube to dedicate so much effort to master it?
Marcin: Like I said before, memorizing them is the most interesting part for me. The other thing is that there is nobody able to beat me right now since my record is 41 cubes and the second place in the world did 24 cubes. It is a good feeling to be unbeatable. My target is to do as many cubes as I can and leave my score unbeatable FOREVER.
Memory-Sports: A very ambitious goal. There are many ways to learn the Rubic’s Cube. Some are relying on the so-called “muscle memory”. They are training the algorithms so long that they can do them automatically. Others are using memory techniques. What would you suggest to a beginner who neither did the cube nor memory training before?
Marcin: I can only suggest to learn a method called “LBL” from the internet, there is no better thing to learn in the beginning, I also started from it. And nobody uses memory techniques for learning it – it’s all about muscle memory or, on higher level of solving, about understanding it.
Memory-Sports: I respect your view about that but I am sure there are at least some who do it merely by memory – but maybe I am just the only one. Anyhow, you are able to solve 41 Rubic’s Cubes blindfolded. Tell us a little bit about the technique you are using.
Marcin: You only need to know where all pieces should go and memorize them. That is easy since there are only 20 moving elements. I am using a system with 451 images for edges and 392 images for corners and with that I can encode any cube to an average of about 11 images. The scale varies from an extreme easy cube with 8 images to an extreme hard cube needing 14 images. It means that I need to memorize about 450 words for 41 cubes. I did that on a competition in less than 33 minutes. Memory sport athletes can do more but “reading” words from the cube is much slower than reading numbers from a sheet of paper. Why? Because I need to look at all sides of a cube and analyze it. AND I need to solve cubes without pauses. You have much time for repeating, I have none because solving time is also counting.
Memory-Sports: You are indeed doing an amazing amount of memorization with these cubes. But repeating in a memory competition will also cut on your time. It is a tough decision for every memory athlete to either go for more data or a secure repetition. How much did you train to get so fast with the cube?
Marcin: I trained cubes and my memory less than one year for being able to do 25 cubes in one hour. Now I have two and a half years of experience. But to be honest: I’m extremely lazy and I don’t spend much time on training. I still repeat to myself: start training again, start training again, start training again…
Memory-Sports: I know that feeling very well. You are able to do amazing performances with memory sports as well like memorizing 1720 digits of Pi for example. With scores like 42.31s for a deck of cards you might win the next Polish Memory Championship and maybe even scare some of the international memory champions. But so far you have never been seen at a competition. Are you planning on competing in the future?
Marcin: I am planning to compete. Achieving the Grand Master of Memory title was a goal but now I believe that I really can do much more in this sport. I only need to start train the disciplines and make good systems for it. Yes, I did a deck of card in 42 seconds with a 1-digit system. But I need one with 2652 images because 52 images for one deck are too much. I also can do 1000 digits in 30 minutes with a 2-digit number system (100 images). The best thing for me was that I barely trained it. I only did a few attempts of digits and I spent about one week on cards. Based on my cubes results I believe that with a good system and some training I will be able to do much more.
Memory-Sports: You are the “Masked Memorizer” because of your awesome mask you use for your blindfolded stunts. What is the story of that mask and where can we get such a cool gadget?
Marcin: This mask is made by my wife, it’s a Pokémon called Raichu. It’s all because of my brother who is 20 years old. He always said that he want to become Raichu when he grows up. If you want a mask like that: my wife has many more of them for sell. You only need to ask her.
Memory-Sports: Your wife seems to be your helping hand in many of your videos. In the last one where you did 41 blindfolded cubes you nearly smashed her with the cover sheet. She took it professionally though. Is she sharing your love for memory and cubes?
Marcin: She had a 3 year longer experience with cubes than me. We met at a competition and now we compete together.
Memory-Sports: Can we expect more of you in the future?
Marcin: Of course, I hope that I will be able to compete on a high level in memory championships in 2014.
Memory-Sports: Good luck and thank you for your time, Marcin.
Marcin: Thank you, too.