No Sublogarithmic-Time Approximation Scheme for Bipartite Vertex Cover
König’s theorem states that on bipartite graphs the size of a maximum matching equals the size of a minimum vertex cover. It is known from prior work that for every ε > 0 there exists a constant-time distributed algorithm that finds a (1 + ε)-approximation of a maximum matching on 2-coloured graphs of bounded degree. In this work, we show—somewhat surprisingly—that no sublogarithmic-time approximation scheme exists for the dual problem: there is a constant δ > 0 so that no randomised distributed algorithm with running time o(logn) can find a (1 + δ)-approximation of a minimum vertex cover on 2-coloured graphs of maximum degree 3. In fact, a simple application of the Linial–Saks (1993) decomposition demonstrates that this lower bound is tight.
Our lower-bound construction is simple and, to some extent, independent of previous techniques. Along the way we prove that a certain cut minimisation problem, which might be of independent interest, is hard to approximate locally on expander graphs.
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