The checkpoint problem

Mohammadtaghi Hajiaghayi, Rohit Khandekar, Guy Kortsarz, Julián Mestre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we consider the checkpoint problem. The input consists of an undirected graph G, a set of source-destination pairs ( s1, t1),( s2, t2),...,( sk, tk), and a collection P of paths connecting the ( si, ti) pairs. A feasible solution is a multicut E′, namely, a set of edges whose removal disconnects every source-destination pair. For each p∈P we define cp E′(p)=|p∩ E′|. In the sum checkpoint (SCP) problem the goal is to minimize ∑ p∈Pcp E′(p), while in the maximum checkpoint (MCP) problem the goal is to minimize max p∈Pcp E′(p). These problems have several natural applications, e.g., in urban transportation and network security. In a sense, they combine the multicut problem and the minimum membership set cover problem. For the sum objective we show that weighted SCP is equivalent, with respect to approximability, to undirected multicut. Thus there exists an O(logn) approximation for SCP in general graphs. Our current approximability results for the max objective have a wide gap: we provide an approximation factor of O(nlognopt) for MCP and a hardness of 2 under the assumption P≠NP. The hardness holds for trees. This solves an open problem of Nelson (2009) [25]. We complement the lower bound by an almost matching upper bound with an asymptotic approximation factor of 2. On trees with all si, ti having an ancestor-descendant relation, we give a combinatorial exact algorithm. Besides the algorithm being combinatorial, its running time improves by many orders of magnitude the LP algorithm that follows from total unimodularity. Finally, we show strong hardness for the well-known problem of finding a path with minimum forbidden pairs, which in a sense can be considered the dual to the checkpoint problem. Despite various works on this problem, hardness of approximation was not known prior to this work. We show that the problem cannot be approximated within cn for some constant c>0, unless P=NP. This is the strongest type of hardness possible. It carries over to directed acyclic graphs and is a huge improvement over the plain NP-hardness of Gabow [H.N. Gabow, Finding paths and cycles of superpolylogarithmic length, SIAM J. Comput. 36 (6) (2007) 1648-1671].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-99
Number of pages12
JournalTheoretical Computer Science
StatePublished - 21 Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The first author thanks Erik Demaine and Jelani Nelson for several fruitful discussions especially on initiating the problem. The first author was supported in part by NSF CAREER award 1053605, ONR YIP award N000141110662, DARPA/AFRL award FA8650-11-1-7162, and a University of Maryland Research and Scholarship Award (RASA). The third author was partially supported by NSF grant number 0829959.


  • Algorithms
  • Approximation
  • Checkpoint
  • Cuts


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