Beating the integrality ratio for s-t-tours in graphs

04/09/2018
by   Vera Traub, et al.
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Among various variants of the traveling salesman problem, the s-t-path graph TSP has the special feature that we know the exact integrality ratio, 3/2, and an approximation algorithm matching this ratio. In this paper, we go below this threshold: we devise a polynomial-time algorithm for the s-t-path graph TSP with approximation ratio 1.497. Our algorithm can be viewed as a refinement of the 3/2-approximation algorithm by Sebő and Vygen [2014], but we introduce several completely new techniques. These include a new type of ear-decomposition, an enhanced ear induction that reveals a novel connection to matroid union, a stronger lower bound, and a reduction of general instances to instances in which s and t have small distance (which works for general metrics).

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