WeGotYouCovered: The Winning Solver from the PACE 2019 Challenge, Vertex Cover Track
We present the winning solver of the Parameterized Algorithms and Computational Experiments (PACE) 2019 Challenge, Vertex Cover Track. The minimum vertex cover problem is one of a handful of problems for which kernelization—the repeated reducing of the input size via data reduction rules—is known to be highly effective in practice. Our algorithm uses a portfolio of techniques, including an aggressive kernelization strategy, local search, branch-and-reduce, and a state-of-theart branch-and-bound solver. Of particular interest is that several of our techniques were not from the literature on the vertex cover problem: they were originally published to solve the (complementary) maximum independent set and maximum clique problems.
Aside from illustrating our solver's performance in the PACE 2019 Challenge, our experiments provide several key insights not yet seen before in the literature. First, kernelization can boost the performance of branch-and-bound clique solvers enough to outperform branch-and-reduce solvers. Second, local search can significantly boost the performance of branch-and-reduce solvers. And finally, somewhat surprisingly, kernelization can sometimes make branch-and-bound algorithms perform worse than running branch-and-bound alone.