Unlike polynomial kernelization in general, for which many non-trivial results and methods exist, only few non-trival algorithms are known for polynomial-time sparsification. Furthermore, excepting problems on restricted inputs (such as graph problems on planar graphs), most such results rely upon encoding the instance as a system of bounded-degree polynomial equations. In particular, for satisfiability (SAT) problems with a fixed constraint language Γ, every previously known result is captured by this approach; for several such problems, this is known to be tight. In this work, we investigate the limits of this approach—in particular, does it really cover all cases of non-trivial polynomial-time sparsification?
We generalize the method using tools from the algebraic approach to constraint satisfaction problems (CSP). Every constraint that can be modelled via a system of linear equations, over some finite field F, also admits a finite domain extension to a tractable CSP with a Maltsev polymorphism; using known algorithms for Maltsev languages, we can show that every problem of the latter type admits a “basis” of O(n) constraints, which implies a linear sparsification for the original problem. This generalization appears to be strict; other special cases include constraints modelled via group equations over some finite group G. For sparsifications of polynomial but super-linear size, we consider two extensions of this. Most directly, we can capture systems of bounded-degree polynomial equations in a “lift-and-project” manner, by finding Maltsev extensions for constraints over c-tuples of variables, for a basis with O(nc) constraints. Additionally, we may use extensions with k-edge polymorphisms instead of requiring a Maltsev polymorphism.
We also investigate characterizations of when such extensions exist. We give an infinite sequence of partial polymorphisms φ1, φ2, …which characterizes whether a language Γ has a Maltsev extension (of possibly infinite domain). In the complementary direction of proving lower bounds on kernelizability, we prove that for any language not preserved by φ1, the corresponding SAT problem does not admit a kernel of size O(n2−ε) for any ε > 0 unless the polynomial hierarchy collapses.