Graph Drawing

Volume 6502 of the series Lecture Notes in Computer Science pp 226-237

A Computational Approach to Conway’s Thrackle Conjecture

  • Radoslav FulekAffiliated withEcole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  • , János PachAffiliated withEcole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and City College


A drawing of a graph in the plane is called a thrackle if every pair of edges meets precisely once, either at a common vertex or at a proper crossing. Let t(n) denote the maximum number of edges that a thrackle of n vertices can have. According to a 40 years old conjecture of Conway, t(n) = n for every n ≥ 3. For any ε> 0, we give an algorithm terminating in \(e^{O((1/\varepsilon^2)\ln(1/\varepsilon))}\) steps to decide whether t(n) ≤ (1 + ε)n for all n ≥ 3. Using this approach, we improve the best known upper bound, \(t(n)\le \frac 32(n-1)\), due to Cairns and Nikolayevsky, to \(\frac{167}{117}n<1.428n\).