On the deque conjecture for the splay algorithm


Splay is a simple, efficient algorithm for searching binary search trees, devised by Sleator and Tarjan, that reorganizes the tree after each search by means of rotations. An open conjecture of Sleator and Tarjan states that Splay is, in essence, the fastest algorithm for processing any sequence of search operations on a binary search tree, using only rotations to reorganize the tree. Tarjan proved a basic special case of this conjecture, called theScanning Theorem, and conjectured a more general special case, called theDeque Conjecture. The Deque Conjecture states that Splay requires linear time to process sequences of deque operations on a binary tree. We prove the following results:

  1. 1.

    Almost tight lower and upper bounds on the maximum numbers of occurrences of various types of right rotations in a sequence of right rotations performed on a binary tree. In particular, the lower bound for right 2-turns refutes Sleator's Right Turn Conjecture.

  2. 2.

    A linear times inverse Ackerman upper bound for the Deque Conjecture. This bound is derived using the above upper bounds.

  3. 3.

    Two new proofs of the Scanning Theorem, one, a simple potential-based proof that solves Tarjan's problem of finding a potential-based proof for the theorem, the other, an inductive proof that generalizes the theorem.

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Additional information

A preliminary version of this paper appeared in theProceedings of the Thirtieth Annual Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science, 1989, 555–559.

This work was supported in part by NSF grants CCR-8702271 and DMS-8703458 and ONR grant N00014-85-K-0046.

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Sundar, R. On the deque conjecture for the splay algorithm. Combinatorica 12, 95–124 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01191208

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AMS subject classification code (1991)

  • 68 P 05
  • 68 R 05