Subset Sum in Time 2^{n/2} / poly(n)

Authors Xi Chen , Yaonan Jin , Tim Randolph , Rocco A. Servedio

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Author Details

Xi Chen
  • Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Yaonan Jin
  • Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Tim Randolph
  • Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Rocco A. Servedio
  • Columbia University, New York, NY, USA


We would like to thank Martin Dietzfelbinger for pointing out the work [Dietzfelbinger et al., 1997], as well as several anonymous referees for helpful suggestions.

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Xi Chen, Yaonan Jin, Tim Randolph, and Rocco A. Servedio. Subset Sum in Time 2^{n/2} / poly(n). In Approximation, Randomization, and Combinatorial Optimization. Algorithms and Techniques (APPROX/RANDOM 2023). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 275, pp. 39:1-39:18, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2023)


A major goal in the area of exact exponential algorithms is to give an algorithm for the (worst-case) n-input Subset Sum problem that runs in time 2^{(1/2 - c)n} for some constant c > 0. In this paper we give a Subset Sum algorithm with worst-case running time O(2^{n/2} ⋅ n^{-γ}) for a constant γ > 0.5023 in standard word RAM or circuit RAM models. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first improvement on the classical "meet-in-the-middle" algorithm for worst-case Subset Sum, due to Horowitz and Sahni, which can be implemented in time O(2^{n/2}) in these memory models [Horowitz and Sahni, 1974]. Our algorithm combines a number of different techniques, including the "representation method" introduced by Howgrave-Graham and Joux [Howgrave-Graham and Joux, 2010] and subsequent adaptations of the method in Austrin, Kaski, Koivisto, and Nederlof [Austrin et al., 2016], and Nederlof and Węgrzycki [Jesper Nederlof and Karol Wegrzycki, 2021], and "bit-packing" techniques used in the work of Baran, Demaine, and Pǎtraşcu [Baran et al., 2005] on subquadratic algorithms for 3SUM.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Design and analysis of algorithms
  • Exact algorithms
  • subset sum
  • log shaving


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