Matching problem

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Given a graph, a matching is a subgraph with the property that no two edges are incident to the same node. Subject to certain restrictions, the problem is to find a feasible matching that optimizes some objective, such as minimizing the total cost of the edges in the matching. A perfect matching is when each node is incident with exactly one edge.

The assignment problem is a classical perfect matching, whereby the graph is bipartite (nodes are two sets: people and jobs), and the matching must have all nodes (every person must do a job, and every job must be done). Then, the matching corresponds precisely to an assignment since each job node is incident with exactly one person node in the matching. Further, the cost of each such matching is precisely the total cost of the corresponding assignment, so this min-cost matching problem is the same as the assignment problem.

Another type of matching problem, called maximum cardinality matching, is to find a matching with the greatest number of nodes, and this is also solvable in polynomial time. However, minimum weight – maximum cardinality is NP-complete.

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