Improved Algorithms for Optimal Winner Determination in Combinatorial Auctions and Generalizations

Tuomas Sandholm and Subhash Suri, Washington University

Combinatorial auctions can be used to reach efficient resource and task allocations in multiagent systems where the items are complementary. Determining the winners is NP-complete and inapproximable, but it was recently shown that optimal search algorithms do very well on average. This paper presents a more sophisticated search algorithm for optimal (and anytime) winner determination, including structural improvements that reduce search tree size, faster data structures, and optimizations at search nodes based on driving toward, identifying and solving tractable special cases. We also uncover a more general tractable special case, and design algorithms for solving it as well as for solving known tractable special cases substantially faster. We generalize combinatorial auctions to multiple units of each item, to reserve prices on singletons as well as combinations, and to combinatorial exchanges---all allowing for substitutability. Finally, we present algorithms for determining the winners in these generalizations.

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