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An algorithm applied in tree search that builds up candidate solutions by making one decision at a time (i.e., branching, see branch and bound) and checks for feasibility at each decision. In case an infeasible state is reached,the algorithm "backtracks", returning to a previous decisions and changing it.

In constraint programming a narrower definition is often used: backtracking is a recursive algorithm that traverses the search tree depth-first, such that at each step a variable is assigned a value (all possible values are assigned in turn) and then the partial assignment is checked for consistency, i.e. the algorithm checks whether all constraints whose variable are fully assigned, are satisfied. If there is an inconsistency, the algorithm prunes the sub-tree and tracks back one step.

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