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The Cube-ist!

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CHILD'S PLAY Bernett Orlando
CHILD'S PLAY Bernett Orlando

Bernett Orlando, the youngest Rubik's Cube world champion, on how it all falls into place

How do you solve a 3x3x3 Rubik's Cube, blindfolded, in nine seconds? With squirrels, goats, sticks and gates.

At least, that's how Bernett Orlando, the youngest to win a Rubik's Cube World Championship, does it. He was all of 11 years when he beat 363 contestants from around the world, solving a 5x5x5 cube blindfolded in 55 minutes. In fact, he was the only one who finished the cube!

“It's called the Journey System,” the 14-year-old says, solemnly. “You memorise the position of the squares and the colours using landmarks around you.” The adults around him look completely flummoxed. “For instance,” he patiently continues, “if there's a yellow and a red square next to each other, for me it signifies a squirrel; yellow-orange is a goat; red-blue is a leaf and so on. Now you just need to remember these objects in a certain order.”

That sounds ever so simple. Only there are 4.32 x 10 raised to 27 ways of arranging a simple 3x3x3 cube.

The grown-ups start to look worried again. Bernett smiles. “It is also about making decisions in a split second, and remembering the choices you have.”

Studying in the St. James Matriculation School in Thiruchirapalli, all of Bernett's achievements have been in the Open Category — including the world championship, 26 Indian records and six Asian records — which means, he competed with people of all ages, and won.

He can memorise a pack of cards in three minutes, 160 random numbers in five minutes and 300 binary digits in five minutesIt all began when Bernett started training under his father, John Louis, learning memory and retention skills. Now, he accompanies his father on his workshops around the world, besides teaching memory-building techniques in more than 500 schools in the country.

Head bent, his fingers hardly seeming to touch the Cube as it twists and turns at will, Bernett Orlando has evidently made a very early start; this is one boy we're certainly going to hear a lot from.

CHITHIRA VIJAYKUMAR

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