# Four-coloring P_6-free graphs. I. Extending an excellent precoloring

This is the first paper in a series whose goal is to give a polynomial time algorithm for the 4-coloring problem and the 4-precoloring extension problem restricted to the class of graphs with no induced six-vertex path, thus proving a conjecture of Huang. Combined with previously known results this completes the classification of the complexity of the 4-coloring problem for graphs with a connected forbidden induced subgraph. In this paper we give a polynomial time algorithm that determines if a special kind of precoloring of a P_6-free graph has a precoloring extension, and constructs such an extension if one exists. Combined with the main result of the second paper of the series, this gives a complete solution to the problem.

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