Sherali - Adams Strikes Back

Authors Ryan O'Donnell, Tselil Schramm

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Author Details

Ryan O'Donnell
  • Computer Science Department, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Tselil Schramm
  • Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA


We thank Luca Trevisan for helpful comments, and Boaz Barak for suggesting the title. We also thank the Schloss Dagstuhl Leibniz Center for Informatics (and more specifically the organizers of the CSP Complexity and Approximability workshop), as well as the Casa Mathemática Oaxaca (and more specifically the organizers of the Analytic Techniques in TCS workshop); parts of this paper came together during discussions at these venues. T.S. also thanks the Oberwolfach Research Institute for Mathematics (and the organizers of the Proof Complexity and Beyond workshop), the Simons Institute (and the organizers of the Optimization semester program), and the Banff International Research Station (and the organizers of the Approximation Algorithms and Hardness workshop) where she tried to prove the opposite of the results in this paper, as well as Sam Hopkins, with whom some of those efforts were made.

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Ryan O'Donnell and Tselil Schramm. Sherali - Adams Strikes Back. In 34th Computational Complexity Conference (CCC 2019). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 137, pp. 8:1-8:30, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2019)


Let G be any n-vertex graph whose random walk matrix has its nontrivial eigenvalues bounded in magnitude by 1/sqrt{Delta} (for example, a random graph G of average degree Theta(Delta) typically has this property). We show that the exp(c (log n)/(log Delta))-round Sherali - Adams linear programming hierarchy certifies that the maximum cut in such a G is at most 50.1 % (in fact, at most 1/2 + 2^{-Omega(c)}). For example, in random graphs with n^{1.01} edges, O(1) rounds suffice; in random graphs with n * polylog(n) edges, n^{O(1/log log n)} = n^{o(1)} rounds suffice. Our results stand in contrast to the conventional beliefs that linear programming hierarchies perform poorly for max-cut and other CSPs, and that eigenvalue/SDP methods are needed for effective refutation. Indeed, our results imply that constant-round Sherali - Adams can strongly refute random Boolean k-CSP instances with n^{ceil[k/2] + delta} constraints; previously this had only been done with spectral algorithms or the SOS SDP hierarchy.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Linear programming
  • Theory of computation → Convex optimization
  • Theory of computation → Network optimization
  • Linear programming
  • Sherali
  • Adams
  • max-cut
  • graph eigenvalues
  • Sum-of-Squares


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