Lookahead Progression

ZZF2L Lookahead Progression

By yoruba

Lookahead is the skill of focusing on the next step of your solve while doing the current one.

Lookahead is not just limited to F2L: just like you can focus on your third pair while solving your second, you can also focus on your first pair while solving EOCross, or focusing on your Last Layer while solving your Last Pair. This article will focus only on F2L though.

Prerequisite: Improve your F2L solutions first, and get them in your muscle memory.

This will be similar to Feliks's lookahead tutorial on cubeskills, but in a context of ZZF2L. Great resource, can also be applied to other methods like Roux if you switch the terms a bit. Check it out here (opens in a new tab).

Lookahead in ZZF2L has 3 stages to progress:

1. No lookahead: where you spot the pieces of your f2l pair, solve it, and then spot the pieces of the next pair. Here you aren't doing any lookahead.

2. Tracking: While you solve your F2L pair, you look for the pieces of another pair. As you spot them, you track the pieces of this other pair, so that after you solve the first pair you immediately know where the pieces of your next pair are.

3. Knowing: While you solve your F2L pair, you spot the pieces of another pair and you know where they are going to end up after solving the first pair. This allows you to maximize your TPS without lookahead disadvantages.

How to start tracking

First off, you need to take a bit of time to build a habit of not looking at what you're solving and tracking other pieces. We can do it by doing a drill.

Setting up CSTimer

  1. Go to CSTimer (opens in a new tab).

  2. Set the left bar on the top to '3x3x3', and then the right bar to 'Custom'. Then click on the gear next to the 'Custom' bar, and set the following Scramble Options: clear the 'OriE' section, and disable the 'PermE-DL', 'PermE-DF', 'PermE-DR' and 'PermE-DB' options. This will generate scrambles with EOCross already solved.

The first drill

  1. Scramble the cube, you should have EOCross already solved.
  2. Spot the pieces of an F2L pair. We'll call this pair, which we are currently solving as 'pair A'
  3. Before you solve 'pair A' look for the pieces of another pair. Well call this pair, the one we are currently tracking as 'pair B'
  4. While solving pair A follow (or track) the pieces of pair B. See the pieces going around the cube and focus on them.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 until you solve F2L. You don't need to do step 2 since you've already tracked the F2L pieces beforehand.

If tracking both pieces of pair B is too difficult, start with a corner first. Once that becomes comfortable, add an edge.

This drill is good for building a habit of looking at other pieces, but it doesn't really represent the 'flow' we want to achieve in F2L: top ZZ solvers don't just pause before each pair to spot other pieces, we want to eventually solve the whole F2L mostly pauseless, which is the main purpose and benefit of lookahead.

That's why after you've made looking for other pieces second nature using the previous drill, we want to stop doing it (you can still do it as a warm up, but there won't be a point in spamming it anymore). Instead, we will incorporate a drill similar to the previous one, but with some adjustments that makes it more realistic for real speedsolves.

The second drill

  1. Scramble the cube as before (EOCross solved).
  2. Spot the pieces of an F2L pair (pair A).
  3. Solve pair A. While solving this pair, look around for the pieces of another F2L pair (pair B).
  4. Repeat step 3 until all pairs are solved.

You could have noticed that this drill is exactly like the previous one, just with steps 3 and 4 merged into a single step. So instead of spotting your pieces of Pair B beforehand, you need to spot them on the fly as you solve Pair A. Here's how to do that, step by step:

  1. Slow down your turning a bit and focus
  2. Force yourself to not concentrate at the pair you're currently solving. The easiest way to do that is to solve the pair with muscle memory.
  3. Instead look around the cube to find the pieces for your next pair. Look after the U layer and unsolved slots.

You want to do this drill at 2 speeds: The first should be slow enough so that you can do the drill comfortably without pauses or problems (do this as warmup), and then for training, use a speed that is challenging, but possible to do. This speed will gradually increase as you train more and become better. However, you need to be wary of the 2 main problems that you're going to likely face:

Problem #1: Tunnel vision

F2L tunnel vision is the bad habit of always settling for the first 2 F2L pieces that you see, no matter how bad of a case they produce. Poor pair choice can lead to more inefficient solutions.

For example, if the first thing we see is the green-orange pair, it results in a very long 12-mover. It's also a front pair, so if we solve it first that hinders lookahead (compared to solving a back pair first, like blue-orange).

Moves: (U R U' R' U' R U' R' U R U' R') (R' U' R U' R' U' R)

However, if we solve the blue-orange pair first, we have a much nicer 5-mover and we fill a back slot to help our lookahead.

Moves: (R U' R2' U' R) (R U R' U2' R U R')

Tunnel vision is common even at a higher level of cubing (sub 8-10), and it's also holding back a lot of people. For some, it's a bad habit that they have built up for years. You want to address this now.

It's a major downside of the above drills, if not addressed.

Solution: Improve Pair Choice + Be more aware of your other pairs

Problem #2: Can't see pieces

You may be solving an F2L pair and trying to spot the pieces for your next one, but you can't spot anything. Annoying, but it's easier to address than the first problem.

Solution: Deduction + pair choice (prioritizing back slots)

Address these 2 problems and continue training your lookahead with the drill until you can lookahead comfortably with your normal turning speed.

From Tracking to Knowing

You might start to realize that for most cases, you won't actually need to track your pieces to the very end to know what case you're going to get. For the first moves, sure, but in the last 3 moves you might not need to track anymore since you can visualise the rest in your mind. This signals that you're currently at a skill level between Tracking and Knowing.

What you should know at this stage is that you should still continue looking ahead, even if you know where your next pair is. In that case, focus on the next pair after that next pair.

How to start Knowing

Knowing can be developed naturally from doing the lookahead drills and general F2L practice. From repeating F2L solutions, you will start to notice how simple triggers like R U' R', R U2 R' affect the rest of the cube. Then, considering that most of your F2L pair solutions before Last Slot are just a combination of those triggers, you will be able to predict your case most of the time.

So, you would want to continue doing the training drill in the 'Tracking' section, but just be more mindful that eventually, you would want to know where the pieces end up instead of tracking them.

To accelerate the process, you can go over each case manually and learn how each case affects the pieces on the cube. Apply the inverse of an F2L case on a fully solved cube to see how the pieces move around.

Moves: R U2 R' U' R U R'

In this insert, we can see that FR and DFR are kept together. Same with UL and UBL. You may also notice that the UFL corner gets both twisted counterclockwise and moved by U2, and so on. Having an idea of how this insert moves pieces around is essential to knowing where pieces will end up.

You would start with the 3 movers, and then the 6-7 movers that have at least 1 piece in the U layer (you would want to learn by breaking the pairs into triggers, instead of individual moves). Then go on to make untimed F2L solves to practice recalling what pieces are going to move to what spots.

We can also use a modification of our very first drill mentioned in here, you spot Pair A and the pieces for Pair B, but then you close your eyes and solve these 2 pairs blindfolded as fast as possible. This will let you put the before mentioned process of seeing how pieces move around in practice.