The goal of the Christofides approximation algorithm (named after Nicos Christofides) is to find a solution to the instances of the traveling salesman problem where the edge weights satisfy the triangle inequality. Let be an instance of TSP, i.e. is a complete graph on the set of vertices with weight function assigning a nonnegative real weight to every edge of .
- Create the minimum spanning tree MST of .
- Let be the set of vertices with odd degree in and find a perfect matching with minimum weight in the complete graph over the vertices from .
- Combine the edges of and to form a multigraph .
- Form an Eulerian circuit in (H is Eulerian because it is connected, with only even-degree vertices).
- Make the circuit found in previous step Hamiltonian by skipping visited nodes (shortcutting).
The cost of the solution produced by the algorithm is within 3/2 of the optimum.
The proof is as follows:
Let A denote the edge set of the optimal solution of TSP for G. Because (V,A) is connected, it contains some spanning tree T and thus w(A) ≥ w(T). Further let denote the edge set of the optimal solution of TSP for the complete graph over vertices from . Because the edge weights are triangular (so visiting more nodes cannot reduce total cost), we know that w(A) ≥ w(B). We show that there is a perfect matching of vertices from with weight under w(B)/2 ≤ w(A)/2 and therefore we have the same upper bound for (because is a perfect matching of minimum cost). Because must contain an even number of vertices, a perfect matching exists. Let e1,...,e2k be the (only) Eulerian path in . Clearly both e1,e3,...,e2k-1 and e2,e4,...,e2k are perfect matchings and the weight of at least one of them is less than or equal to w(B)/2. Thus w(M)+w(T) ≤ w(A) + w(A)/2 and from the triangle inequality it follows that the algorithm is 3/2-approximative.
- NIST Christofides Algorithm Definition
- Nicos Christofides, Worst-case analysis of a new heuristic for the travelling salesman problem, Report 388, Graduate School of Industrial Administration, CMU, 1976.