### Curriculum learning for multilevel budgeted combinatorial problems

Working paper, .

﹀ Show more#### Abstract

Learning heuristics for combinatorial optimization problems through graph neural networks have recently shown promising results on some classic NP-hard problems. These are single-level optimization problems with only one player. Multilevel combinatorial optimization problems are their generalization, encompassing situations with multiple players taking decisions sequentially. By framing them in a multi-agent reinforcement learning setting, we devise a value-based method to learn to solve multilevel budgeted combinatorial problems involving two players in a zero-sum game over a graph. Our framework is based on a simple curriculum: if an agent knows how to estimate the value of instances with budgets up to B, then solving instances with budget B+1 can be done in polynomial time regardless of the direction of the optimization by checking the value of every possible afterstate. Thus, in a bottom-up approach, we generate datasets of heuristically solved instances with increasingly larger budgets to train our agent. We report results close to optimality on graphs up to 100 nodes and a 185× speedup on average compared to the quickest exact solver known for the Multilevel Critical Node problem, a max-min-max trilevel problem that has been shown to be at least Σp2-hard.

#### Keywords

- Trilevel programming
- Graph games
- Defender-attacker-defender
- Reinforcement Learning
- Combinatorial optimization