BEST theorem

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In graph theory, a part of discrete mathematics, the BEST theorem gives a product formula for the number of Eulerian circuits in directed (oriented) graphs. The name is an acronym of the names of people who discovered it: de Bruijn, van Aardenne-Ehrenfest, Smith and Tutte.

Precise statement[edit]

Let G = (VE) be a directed graph. An Eulerian circuit is a directed closed path which visits each edge exactly once. In 1736, Euler showed that G has an Eulerian circuit if and only if G is connected and the indegree is equal to outdegree at every vertex. In this case G is called Eulerian. We denote these in-degree of a vertex v by deg(v).

The BEST theorem states that the number ec(G) of Eulerian circuits in a connected Eulerian graph G is given by the formula

Here tw(G) is the number of arborescences, which are trees directed towards the root at a fixed vertex w in G. The number tw(G) can be computed as a determinant, by the version of the matrix tree theorem for directed graphs. It is a property of Eulerian graphs that tv(G) = tw(G) for every two vertices v and w in a connected Eulerian graph G.


The BEST theorem shows that the number of Eulerian circuits in directed graphs can be computed in polynomial time, a problem which is #P-complete for undirected graphs.[1] It is also used in the asymptotic enumeration of Eulerian circuits of complete and complete bipartite graphs.[2][3]


The BEST theorem was first stated in this form in a "note added in proof" to the paper of van Aardenne-Ehrenfest and de Bruijn (1951). The original proof was bijective and generalized the de Bruijn sequences. It is a variation on an earlier result by Smith and Tutte (1941).


  1. ^ Brightwell and Winkler, "Note on Counting Eulerian Circuits", CDAM Research Report LSE-CDAM-2004-12, 2004.
  2. ^ Brendan McKay and Robert W. Robinson, Asymptotic enumeration of eulerian circuits in the complete graph, Combinatorica, 10 (1995), no. 4, 367–377.
  3. ^ M.I. Isaev, Asymptotic number of Eulerian circuits in complete bipartite graphs (in Russian), Proc. 52-nd MFTI Conference (2009), Moscow.