Gradient Descent-Ascent Provably Converges to Strict Local Minmax Equilibria with a Finite Timescale Separation

ICLR 2021  ·  Tanner Fiez, Lillian Ratliff ·

We study the role that a finite timescale separation parameter $\tau$ has on gradient descent-ascent in two-player non-convex, non-concave zero-sum games where the learning rate of player 1 is denoted by $\gamma_1$ and the learning rate of player 2 is defined to be $\gamma_2=\tau\gamma_1$. Existing work analyzing the role of timescale separation in gradient descent-ascent has primarily focused on the edge cases of players sharing a learning rate ($\tau =1$) and the maximizing player approximately converging between each update of the minimizing player ($\tau \rightarrow \infty$). For the parameter choice of $\tau=1$, it is known that the learning dynamics are not guaranteed to converge to a game-theoretically meaningful equilibria in general. In contrast, Jin et al. (2020) showed that the stable critical points of gradient descent-ascent coincide with the set of strict local minmax equilibria as $\tau\rightarrow\infty$. In this work, we bridge the gap between past work by showing there exists a finite timescale separation parameter $\tau^{\ast}$ such that $x^{\ast}$ is a stable critical point of gradient descent-ascent for all $\tau \in (\tau^{\ast}, \infty)$ if and only if it is a strict local minmax equilibrium. Moreover, we provide an explicit construction for computing $\tau^{\ast}$ along with corresponding convergence rates and results under deterministic and stochastic gradient feedback. The convergence results we present are complemented by a non-convergence result: given a critical point $x^{\ast}$ that is not a strict local minmax equilibrium, then there exists a finite timescale separation $\tau_0$ such that $x^{\ast}$ is unstable for all $\tau\in (\tau_0, \infty)$. Finally, we empirically demonstrate on the CIFAR-10 and CelebA datasets the significant impact timescale separation has on training performance.

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