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Solving the middle level of Rubik’s Cube

While I’m by no means an expert on Rubik’s cube solving, I’ve been able to solve it since a babysitter taught me how as a teenager. It’s also a nice party trick if you can solve it.

My son recently showed an interest in solving the cube, and so I figured I’d document the process as I remember it.

Top-solvedFirst, you have to be able to solve the top-level of the cube, including all corners, so that each side makes a small “T”, like the photo at right.

Usually when you are solving the cube, you should pick an easily identifiable side to use as the first side. Because I learned this way – I always use the white side to solve first as it’s very visible, and helps as you continue to solve it as you can identify the white side pieces as they move around to keep you oriented.

Once you solve this one side (again – it can be any color – I will use the white side first in my examples), you’ll flip the cube upside down and this will be the bottom as you solve it.

While doing moves, after each set of moves (except the final corner rotation!) the bottom will return to being solid – which makes this the easier way to solve it for beginners.

That said, let’s use a little terminology first.

Terminology

Move instructions are usually given by a sequence of steps which rearrange various  parts of the cube. In this tutorial, I’ll teach you how to solve the middle level of the cube (Remember – you’ve already solved the bottom).

In this case, however, each move is given as a rotation of the:

  • Top, clockwise (T)
  • Top, counter-clockwise (T’)
  • Right, clockwise (R)
  • Right, counter-clockwise (R’)
  • Front, clockwise (F)
  • Front, counter-clockwise (F’)

The picture here shows the two modes of moves, in case you were unsure. Getting this right at the start is essential. Final note: each move is simply a quarter turn.

TFR T'F'R'

 

Solving the Middle Layer

Now, to solve the middle layer, we usually need to move a piece from the Top into the middle layer. There are two sets of moves to do this.

Each move depends on the orientation of the middle piece. Shown here are your two starting positions:

Moving the Red/Green piece into the middle section. Note that we match the red side with the red center to start this move.

Moving the Red/Green piece into the middle section. Note that we match the red side with the red center to start this move.

Moving the Blue/Orange piece into the middle section. Note that we match the blue side with the blue center to start this move.

Moving the Blue/Orange piece into the middle section. Note that we match the blue side with the blue center to start this move.

Moving from Top/Front to Front/Right

The move here is:

TRT’R’T’F’T’F

Before

Before

After

After

Moving from Top/Right to Front/Right

The move here is, basically, a mirror of our first move:

T’F’TFTRT’R’

Before

Before

After

After

Problems which may occur

A few issues may occur during this stage, but they’re easily remedied.

The piece I need to move is already in the middle section

Red/Blue is already in the wrong place here - what to do?

Red/Blue is already in the wrong place here – what to do?

For example, in the attached image here, the Red/Blue piece is already in the middle section. What do I do?

The short answer is – ignore it for now. Move the Blue/Orange middle piece into its place it it will end up in the top layer where you can follow the above instructions.

The piece is in the right place but it’s flipped!

Red/Green in right place but flipped

Red/Green in right place but flipped

Ah. This one is always funny to see. But it’s also straightforward – just move ANY top piece (e.g. one with yellow on it in our example) into its place, and the piece will end up in the top layer. Then just move it back into place by moving as shown above.

I’ve solved the middle!

Middle solved (yes, we flipped it over to show the bottom solved as well)

Middle solved (yes, we flipped it over to show the bottom solved as well)

Excellent! Next up is the top. It consists of a few sets of moves to finally solve it:

  • Flipping the center orientation
  • Rearranging the center pieces
  • Rearranging the corner pieces
  • Rotating the corner pieces

I’ll fill in these stages of the guide shortly!

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