As Monkey League Season 4 was set to begin, all eyes were on Ruihang Xu, the 13-year-old Chinese speedcuber, who had recently set the official 3x3 world record average of 5.48 seconds and was making his first Monkey League appearance. His opponent, 14-year-old Matty Hiroto Inaba from Hawaii, was returning after a career best 2nd place finish in season 3. The anticipated matchup attracted thousands of live viewers in China and across the world. Matty was excited to face off against Ruihang. “I knew China was watching, so I had to make a good reputation for myself by beating him,” said Matty after beating Ruihang 3-2. But how did he do it?
Matty has been honing his focus skills over the seasons. He used to lay his hands out palm-up on the table before each attempt, but now he does a full warm-up solve (even in practice!). Impressively, the change had no apparent negative effect on his focus, “It’s different now, but I’ve tried to keep it the same the last week, because by keeping the same, the solves you’re doing feel more familiar.”
Creating a familiar environment is key. Matty doesn't look at his opponents times before his solves. “I rather focus on my own solve rather than be concerned about the others’. I don’t look at anyone else’s solves during a regular csTimer session, so I don’t do it during the match.” Last season, Monkey League Champions Tymon Kolasiński and Leo Borromeo also adopted this strategy, and so far it's been successful.
A focus on flowing solutions and executions has helped Matty achieve fast times like few others have. Over the past few months, Matty has been learning several new ZBLL algorithms. “I usually don’t do some ZB’s because keeping the flow of the solve is better to me. If I know it, and I’m confident with it, then I do it. But I don’t intentionally pause to recall a solution, it’s usually just the OLL and the PLL. I’ve always been about intuitive solving, not alg-based solving.”
Ruihang Xu has perhaps been the greatest ambassador of prioritizing fluidity over efficiency. In the fourth set, Ruihang threw down a 4.13, then a full-step 4.23 with an insane 12.77 TPS (turns per second), going on to sweep the set. When asked about Ruihang’s turning style, Matty said “If you have a good solution planned out to the second pair, his high TPS works out. If you’re unsure about where the second pair is gonna be, the TPS is gonna backfire. When he’s relaxed, he starts off really smooth and then his TPS picks up, so that’s the good part...he’s really fast.”
Matty won the last solve due to an unfortunate +2 on a 5.17 by Ruihang (a +2 second penalty is added when the timer is stopped and the cube is one turn away from being solved). “It was really unlucky,” said Matty. “But you know, it happens. If it happened to me, I would’ve just thought to myself ‘I shouldn’t have rushed that solve.’ It’s lucky for me, but it also wasn’t unlucky for him because he was in sole control of that solve.”
After securing the first win of Monkey League Season 4, Matty was satisfied, “Starting off with a win is really nice. You know, I’m ‘in it’ now. But as the season goes on, I need to practice harder. The other guys are really good too.”
Matty Hiroto Inaba will return July 12th at 2:00 am UTC, battling it out against Leo Borromeo. Ruihang Xu will return July 14th at 1:00pm UTC against Tymon Kolasiński.