Improving the integrality gap for multiway cut

Kristóf Bérczi, Karthekeyan Chandrasekaran, Tamás Király, Vivek Madan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the multiway cut problem, we are given an undirected graph with non-negative edge weights and a collection of k terminal nodes, and the goal is to partition the node set of the graph into k non-empty parts each containing exactly one terminal, so that the total weight of the edges crossing the partition is minimized. The multiway cut problem for k≥ 3 is APX-hard. For arbitrary k, the best-known approximation factor is 1.2965 due to Sharma and Vondrák (Proceedings of the forty-sixth annual ACM symposium on theory of computing, STOC, 2014) while the best known inapproximability result due to Angelidakis et al. (Integer programming and combinatorial optimization, IPCO, 2017) rules out efficient algorithms to achieve an approximation factor less than 1.2 under the unique games conjecture (UGC). In this work, we improve the lower bound to 1.20016 under UGC by constructing an integrality gap instance for the CKR relaxation. The CKR relaxation embeds the graph into a simplex and it is known that its integrality gap translates to inapproximability under UGC. A technical challenge in improving the integrality gap has been the lack of geometric tools to understand higher-dimensional simplices. Our instance is a non-trivial 3-dimensional instance that overcomes this technical challenge. We analyze the gap of the instance by viewing it as a convex combination of 2-dimensional instances and a uniform 3-dimensional instance. We believe that this technique could be exploited further to construct instances with larger integrality gap. One of the ingredients of our proof technique is a generalization of a result on Sperner admissible labelings due to Mirzakhani and Vondrák (Proceedings of the twenty-sixth annual ACM-SIAM symposium on discrete algorithms, SODA, 2015) that might be of independent combinatorial interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-193
Number of pages23
JournalMathematical Programming
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Approximation
  • Combinatorial optimization
  • Integrality gap
  • Multiway cut

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Mathematics(all)

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