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August 6, 2009

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Don't be square ... it's time to get cubing!

SINCE its invention by Hungarian architecture professor Erno Rubik in 1974, Rubik's Cube, a toy puzzle, has turned up in the hands of several generations. So far, more than 100 million Rubik's Cubes have been sold worldwide.

Enthusiasts now can apply for a national Rubik's Cube competition organized by Toys'R'Us. The competition will run from October to December.

The champion will receive a limited-edition Rubik's golden cube and a cash prize of 4,999 yuan (US$735).

Dr Eden Woon, managing director China of Toys LiFung (Shanghai) Ltd, says it will be the first time for them to host a Rubik's Cube contest on the Chinese mainland.

Children can learn cubing from four years old, Woon says. "This popular intelligent toy has proved its effect on improving a child's learning and creativity abilities, especially in logic and spacial imagination."

Though cubing has been challenged by other fashionable toys over the past few years, it has regained popularity thanks to some TV programs.

Jin Xiaobo, a sophomore majoring in physics at East China University of Science and Technology, says he was first attracted to cubing after watching a televised performance by cubers.

After two years' practice - at least two to three hours a day - Jin is ranked first domestically in the 5x5x5 cube, which has five squares on each line instead of the normal three.

Personality improved

"Cubing can also improve one's personality as regards to stamina, patience and flexibility," Jin says. "We now have a cubers' club. We host regular gatherings to share our experiences."

Chen Shuang, ranked first in Shanghai in the 3x3x3 cube, has been admitted to Tsinghua University.

He can finish a cube in an average of 13.41 seconds. In his eyes, anybody can master the cube if he grasps the rules and formulae for sequences of moves.

Veterans will also teach cubing enthusiasts how to solve the puzzle in seven steps at Toys'R'Us stores around the city.

The competition will be divided into two groups, amateur and professionals.

People can apply by calling 400-886-8828. The registration deadline is September 13.


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