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Quantum-Inspired Combinatorial Games: Algorithms and Complexity

Authors Kyle W. Burke, Matthew Ferland, Shang-Hua Teng

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Author Details

Kyle W. Burke
  • Department of Computer Science, Plymouth State University, NH, USA
Matthew Ferland
  • Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Shang-Hua Teng
  • Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

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Kyle W. Burke, Matthew Ferland, and Shang-Hua Teng. Quantum-Inspired Combinatorial Games: Algorithms and Complexity. In 11th International Conference on Fun with Algorithms (FUN 2022). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 226, pp. 11:1-11:20, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2022)


Recently, quantum concepts inspired a new framework in combinatorial game theory. This transformation uses discrete superpositions to yield beautiful new rulesets with succinct representations that require sophisticated strategies. In this paper, we address the following fundamental questions: - Complexity Leap: Can this framework transform polynomial-time solvable games into intractable games? - Complexity Collapse: Can this framework transform PSPACE-complete games into ones with complexity in the lower levels of the polynomial-time hierarchy? We focus our study on how it affects two extensively studied polynomial-time-solvable games: Nim and Undirected Geography. We prove that both Nim and Undirected Geography make a complexity leap over NP, when starting with superpositions: The former becomes Σ₂^p-hard and the latter becomes PSPACE-complete. We further give an algorithm to prove that from any classical starting position, quantumized Undirected Geography remains polynomial-time solvable. Together they provide a nearly-complete characterization for Undirected Geography. Both our algorithm and its correctness proof require strategic moves and graph contraction to extend the matching-based theory for classical Undirected Geography. Our constructive proofs for both games highlight the intricacy of this framework. The polynomial time robustness of Undirected Geography in this quantum-inspired setting provides a striking contrast to the recent result that the disjunctive sum of two Undirected Geography games is PSPACE-complete. We give a Σ₂^p-hardness analysis of quantumized Nim, even if there are no pile sizes of more than 1.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Computational complexity and cryptography
  • Quantum-Inspired Games
  • Combinatorial Games
  • Computational Complexity
  • Polynomial Hierarchy
  • çlass{PSPACE}
  • Nim
  • Generalized Geography
  • Snort


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