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A Complexity Trichotomy for Approximately Counting List H-Colourings

Authors Andreas Galanis, Leslie Ann Goldberg, Mark Jerrum

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Andreas Galanis
Leslie Ann Goldberg
Mark Jerrum

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Andreas Galanis, Leslie Ann Goldberg, and Mark Jerrum. A Complexity Trichotomy for Approximately Counting List H-Colourings. In 43rd International Colloquium on Automata, Languages, and Programming (ICALP 2016). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 55, pp. 46:1-46:13, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2016)


We examine the computational complexity of approximately counting the list H-colourings of a graph. We discover a natural graph-theoretic trichotomy based on the structure of the graph H. If H is an irreflexive bipartite graph or a reflexive complete graph then counting list H-colourings is trivially in polynomial time. Otherwise, if H is an irreflexive bipartite permutation graph or a reflexive proper interval graph then approximately counting list H-colourings is equivalent to #BIS, the problem of approximately counting independent sets in a bipartite graph. This is a well-studied problem which is believed to be of intermediate complexity - it is believed that it does not have an FPRAS, but that it is not as difficult as approximating the most difficult counting problems in #P. For every other graph H, approximately counting list H-colourings is complete for #P with respect to approximation-preserving reductions (so there is no FPRAS unless NP = RP). Two pleasing features of the trichotomy are (i) it has a natural formulation in terms of hereditary graph classes, and (ii) the proof is largely self-contained and does not require any universal algebra (unlike similar dichotomies in the weighted case). We are able to extend the hardness results to the bounded-degree setting, showing that all hardness results apply to input graphs with maximum degree at most 6.
  • approximate counting
  • graph homomorphisms
  • list colourings


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