Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 28 (NIPS 2015)

*Sung-Soo Ahn, Sejun Park, Michael Chertkov, Jinwoo Shin*

Max-product Belief Propagation (BP) is a popular message-passing algorithm for computing a Maximum-A-Posteriori (MAP) assignment over a distribution represented by a Graphical Model (GM). It has been shown that BP can solve a number of combinatorial optimization problems including minimum weight matching, shortest path, network flow and vertex cover under the following common assumption: the respective Linear Programming (LP) relaxation is tight, i.e., no integrality gap is present. However, when LP shows an integrality gap, no model has been known which can be solved systematically via sequential applications of BP. In this paper, we develop the first such algorithm, coined Blossom-BP, for solving the minimum weight matching problem over arbitrary graphs. Each step of the sequential algorithm requires applying BP over a modified graph constructed by contractions and expansions of blossoms, i.e., odd sets of vertices. Our scheme guarantees termination in O(n^2) of BP runs, where n is the number of vertices in the original graph. In essence, the Blossom-BP offers a distributed version of the celebrated Edmonds' Blossom algorithm by jumping at once over many sub-steps with a single BP. Moreover, our result provides an interpretation of the Edmonds' algorithm as a sequence of LPs.

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