Variance Reduction for Matrix Games

We present a randomized primal-dual algorithm that solves the problem $\min_{x} \max_{y} y^\top A x$ to additive error $\epsilon$ in time $\mathrm{nnz}(A) + \sqrt{\mathrm{nnz}(A)n}/\epsilon$, for matrix $A$ with larger dimension $n$ and $\mathrm{nnz}(A)$ nonzero entries. This improves the best known exact gradient methods by a factor of $\sqrt{\mathrm{nnz}(A)/n}$ and is faster than fully stochastic gradient methods in the accurate and/or sparse regime $\epsilon \le \sqrt{n/\mathrm{nnz}(A)}$. Our results hold for $x,y$ in the simplex (matrix games, linear programming) and for $x$ in an $\ell_2$ ball and $y$ in the simplex (perceptron / SVM, minimum enclosing ball). Our algorithm combines Nemirovski's "conceptual prox-method" and a novel reduced-variance gradient estimator based on "sampling from the difference" between the current iterate and a reference point.

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