Breaking the 2ⁿ Barrier for 5-Coloring and 6-Coloring

Author Or Zamir

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Or Zamir
  • Blavatnik School of Computer Science, Tel Aviv University, Israel


The author would like to deeply thank Noga Alon for important discussions and insights regarding the subset removal lemma, and Haim Kaplan and Uri Zwick for many helpful discussions and comments on the paper. The author would also like to thank anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

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Or Zamir. Breaking the 2ⁿ Barrier for 5-Coloring and 6-Coloring. In 48th International Colloquium on Automata, Languages, and Programming (ICALP 2021). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 198, pp. 113:1-113:20, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2021)


The coloring problem (i.e., computing the chromatic number of a graph) can be solved in O^*(2ⁿ) time, as shown by Björklund, Husfeldt and Koivisto in 2009. For k = 3,4, better algorithms are known for the k-coloring problem. 3-coloring can be solved in O(1.33ⁿ) time (Beigel and Eppstein, 2005) and 4-coloring can be solved in O(1.73ⁿ) time (Fomin, Gaspers and Saurabh, 2007). Surprisingly, for k > 4 no improvements over the general O^*(2ⁿ) are known. We show that both 5-coloring and 6-coloring can also be solved in O((2-ε) ⁿ) time for some ε > 0. As a crucial step, we obtain an exponential improvement for computing the chromatic number of a very large family of graphs. In particular, for any constants Δ,α > 0, the chromatic number of graphs with at least α⋅ n vertices of degree at most Δ can be computed in O((2-ε) ⁿ) time, for some ε = ε_{Δ,α} > 0. This statement generalizes previous results for bounded-degree graphs (Björklund, Husfeldt, Kaski, and Koivisto, 2010) and graphs with bounded average degree (Golovnev, Kulikov and Mihajlin, 2016). We generalize the aforementioned statement to List Coloring, for which no previous improvements are known even for the case of bounded-degree graphs.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Mathematics of computing → Combinatorial algorithms
  • Theory of computation → Graph algorithms analysis
  • Algorithms
  • Graph Algorithms
  • Graph Coloring


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