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On the Power and Limitations of Branch and Cut

Authors Noah Fleming, Mika Göös, Russell Impagliazzo, Toniann Pitassi, Robert Robere, Li-Yang Tan, Avi Wigderson

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Author Details

Noah Fleming
  • University of Toronto, Canada
  • Simons Institute, Berkeley, CA, USA
Mika Göös
  • EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland
Russell Impagliazzo
  • University of California, San Diego, CA, USA
Toniann Pitassi
  • University of Toronto, Canada
  • IAS, Princeton, NJ, USA
Robert Robere
  • McGill University, Montréal, Canada
Li-Yang Tan
  • Standford University, CA, USA
Avi Wigderson
  • IAS, Princeton, NJ, USA


N.F. would like to thank Albert Atserias for some corrections to an earlier version of this paper.

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Noah Fleming, Mika Göös, Russell Impagliazzo, Toniann Pitassi, Robert Robere, Li-Yang Tan, and Avi Wigderson. On the Power and Limitations of Branch and Cut. In 36th Computational Complexity Conference (CCC 2021). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 200, pp. 6:1-6:30, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2021)


The Stabbing Planes proof system [Paul Beame et al., 2018] was introduced to model the reasoning carried out in practical mixed integer programming solvers. As a proof system, it is powerful enough to simulate Cutting Planes and to refute the Tseitin formulas - certain unsatisfiable systems of linear equations od 2 - which are canonical hard examples for many algebraic proof systems. In a recent (and surprising) result, Dadush and Tiwari [Daniel Dadush and Samarth Tiwari, 2020] showed that these short refutations of the Tseitin formulas could be translated into quasi-polynomial size and depth Cutting Planes proofs, refuting a long-standing conjecture. This translation raises several interesting questions. First, whether all Stabbing Planes proofs can be efficiently simulated by Cutting Planes. This would allow for the substantial analysis done on the Cutting Planes system to be lifted to practical mixed integer programming solvers. Second, whether the quasi-polynomial depth of these proofs is inherent to Cutting Planes. In this paper we make progress towards answering both of these questions. First, we show that any Stabbing Planes proof with bounded coefficients (SP*) can be translated into Cutting Planes. As a consequence of the known lower bounds for Cutting Planes, this establishes the first exponential lower bounds on SP*. Using this translation, we extend the result of Dadush and Tiwari to show that Cutting Planes has short refutations of any unsatisfiable system of linear equations over a finite field. Like the Cutting Planes proofs of Dadush and Tiwari, our refutations also incur a quasi-polynomial blow-up in depth, and we conjecture that this is inherent. As a step towards this conjecture, we develop a new geometric technique for proving lower bounds on the depth of Cutting Planes proofs. This allows us to establish the first lower bounds on the depth of Semantic Cutting Planes proofs of the Tseitin formulas.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Proof complexity
  • Proof Complexity
  • Integer Programming
  • Cutting Planes
  • Branch and Cut
  • Stabbing Planes


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