Watch This Face

Words: Elissa Friday Picture: Louisa Jone

Mt Duneed prodigy Phoenix was intrigued the very first time he spotted a picture of a Rubik’s cube.

Instantly he felt a “need” to learn more about the colourful puzzle and the mystery of its configuration.

“After I saw some videos about it on YouTube I asked my mum to get me a cube,” Phoenix says.

Now aged nine, Phoenix began “cubing” just a year ago.

He began with the famous cube’s easier, scaled down 2×2 version, which lacks the full-sized version’s centre and edge pieces.

Initially he kept “scrambling up” the cube’s colourful squares without solving the puzzle.

“I raged about it and threw it on the ground – there were pieces everywhere,” he laughs now.

But after a few days watching experts at work in online videos, Phoenix learned how to solve the cube by methodically conjuring algorithms.

Six months later was competing at the Rubik’s cube world championships.

His first result, 46th out of 100 competitors, was better than it looked, explains his dad, Kel Dolen.

“It’s not in categories. He’s competing with the best of the best,” Kel says proudly.

“Current champion Felix Zemdeg’s world record for solving the 3×3 cube is 4.22 seconds. Phoenix’s personal best is 17.48 seconds, and he can solve the 2×2 in 4.94 seconds.

Kel knew his son had a special talent almost immediately after buying him a ‘mirror’ cube, whose pieces have to be matched by their varying shapes rather than colour.

“He’d solved it by the time we had reached the car after leaving the shop. I thought, ‘How did he do that?’.”

Over the following months Phoenix progressed through the various cube challenges, all the way up to the 7×7 block – the last available in Geelong.

“Once you get to that point it’s a whole new world of more complex shapes, so then you have to go to a specialist cube shop,” Kel says.

Since then Phoneix has continued configuring his way through ever-harder cubes, such as ‘pyramids’ and ‘shape shifters’, all the way up to a huge 13×13 block.

Now he wants to go two sizes up.

“Cubes are fun,” Phoenix says.

“If I didn’t have my cubes I’d probably be riding my bike.”