An optimal coarse-grained arc consistency algorithm

Christian Bessière, Jean Charles Régin, Roland H.C. Yap, Yuanlin Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


The use of constraint propagation is the main feature of any constraint solver. It is thus of prime importance to manage the propagation in an efficient and effective fashion. There are two classes of propagation algorithms for general constraints: fine-grained algorithms where the removal of a value for a variable will be propagated to the corresponding values for other variables, and coarse-grained algorithms where the removal of a value will be propagated to the related variables. One big advantage of coarse-grained algorithms, like AC-3, over fine-grained algorithms, like AC-4, is the ease of integration when implementing an algorithm in a constraint solver. However, fine-grained algorithms usually have optimal worst case time complexity while coarse-grained algorithms do not. For example, AC-3 is an algorithm with non-optimal worst case complexity although it is simple, efficient in practice, and widely used. In this paper we propose a coarse-grained algorithm, AC2001/3.1, that is worst case optimal and preserves as much as possible the ease of its integration into a solver (no heavy data structure to be maintained during search). Experimental results show that AC2001/3.1 is competitive with the best fine-grained algorithms such as AC-6. The idea behind the new algorithm can immediately be applied to obtain a path consistency algorithm that has the best-known time and space complexity. The same idea is then extended to non-binary constraints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-185
Number of pages21
JournalArtificial Intelligence
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Arc consistency
  • Constraint networks
  • Constraint programming systems
  • Non-binary constraints
  • Path consistency


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