Combinatorial search in two and more rounds
Journal article, 2019

In a combinatorial search problem we wish to identify an unknown element by binary tests, where the edges of a hypergraph specify the available tests. We show that, for rather general cases of this problem, the worst-case minimum number of tests, even if adaptive testing is permitted, can already be achieved in a small number of rounds of parallel tests. In particular, the maximum number of necessary rounds grows only as the square root of the number of elements, and two rounds are enough if, e.g., the test number is close to the number of elements, or the hypergraph is a graph. We also provide polynomial-time, hardness, and parameterized results on the computational complexity of finding optimal strategies for some cases, including graphs and tree hypergraphs.

adaptive strategy


test cover

combinatorial search


Peter Damaschke

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Data Science

Theoretical Computer Science

0304-3975 (ISSN)

Vol. 780 1-11


Basic sciences

Subject Categories

Computer Science

Discrete Mathematics



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