[GUIDE] FSR Coding Cup 2023 🧑‍💻

Tips and introductory information

Basic problem structure

Every Competitive Problem basically has a similar structure.

For every problem there will be a description, a sample input and sample output. The problem description introduces the real live problem to solve (think of “Mathe Text Aufgaben :D”) and precisely outlines what you have to compute. A sample description could be the following:

  • “You are bored in class and look around. You see $n$ sticks of varying sizes on the table. While examining their lengths you begin to wonder whether it is possible to stack two sticks on top of each other so that the height of the stack exactly equals the height of your water bottle.”

The sample input section tells you how the input will look and also what ranges the different numbers may have:

  • “The first line will have two integers $(1 < n < 10^5)$ and $(1 <= h <= 10^9)$, the number of sticks and the height of your water bottle. The second line will have $n$ integers $(1 <= h_i <= 10^9)$, the height of the $i$-ith stick.”

The sample output then describes how your anwser should look like:

  • “Print the heights of the two used sticks in one line and impossible! if the described task is not possible. If there are multiple possible awnsers, you may print any one of them.”

Given this problem desription, you are to write a solution which prints the correct solution for each given input. Once you have made sure that your solution is correct on the examples, you can submit it to a judge system, this judge will then evaluate your solution on about 100 hidden test-cases. If your solution is correct for all of them it will count as solved.

Basic strategy

After you have read the problem description carefully you generally try to extract the underlying mathematical problem. This will help you abtract from the story told in the problem and concentrate on the task to solve. For the sample this could be e.g.:

  • “Given a list of $n$ positive whole (possibly repeating) numbers, find two numbers which exactly add up to $h$.”

You can then start to work out a procedure which can solve the task. It is generally the best idea to start with a very simple brute-force solution. On the given task you could for example identify that the easiest way to solve the described problem would be to test the sum of any two sticks of the list. You start with the first stick and then compute the sum of it and each of the other sticks and test if they sum up to $h$.

A sample python implementation could be the following:

1.   for i in range(len(sticks)):
2.      for j in range(i+1, len(sticks)):
3.          if sticks[i]+sticks[j] == h:
4.              print(sticks[i],sticks[j])
5.              exit()
6.   print("impossible!")

Note that the second for loop starts at the stick after stick $i$ to avert testing pairs of sticks twice. Also note that starting at index 0 with both for loops would not just be a slower solution, it would be an incorrect one!

The reason is that $i$ and $j$ can take the same value. Then you would test if the same stick stacked on top of another twice would add up to the bottle. This is not allowed. A big skill in competetitive programming is to find and fix these small inaccuracies.

The exit() on line 5 makes sure that you do not print multiple legible pairs of sticks – which would be counted as a wrong submission!

Now to the problem with the given solution. A competetitive programming solution always consists of two things: correctness and speed. While the code does find correct solutions and would not result in a Wrong Awnser submission, it is in fact too slow and would result in a Time Limit Exceeded submission. The reason for this is the following:

Note the the output description states that there may be up to $10^5$ sticks. The solution then uses two for loops that go over all possible sticks twice, resulting in an O($n^2$) solution since each pair needs to be checks. For a more exact description, $n$ numbers result in $n*(n-1)/2$ pairs of numbers which is about $10^10$. Your program usually has 1-5 seconds of computing time until you get the *Time-Limit-Exceeded* verdict. A good estimate to use is to check the general complextiy O($n^2$) and check whether it falls below 10^7 operations. A lot of times the first awnser you think of is just fast enough but this time we need to come up with a different one.

As you look at the problem you might find out that for each stick $n$, you exactly know how the corresponding second stick should look like. It needs to have the width ($h-h_i$). If you could find out faster whether this ($h-h_i$) stick exists in the given list, you can solve the whole problem much faster! In this case, you can use a Set, a data structure which allows for O(log $n$) lookups. The resulting code could look like this in python:

 1.    stick_set = set(sticks)
 2.    for h_i in sticks:
 3.        if h_i * 2 == h:
 4.            if sticks.count(h_i) >= 2:
 5.                print(h_i, h_i)
 6.                exit()
 7.        elif h - h_i in stick_set:
 8.            print(h_i, h - h_i)
 9.            exit()
10.     print("impossible!")

The complexity of this solution is O($n$ * log $n$), as the for loop iterates over all sticks and inside the for loop a set lookup is done which takes log $n$ time. Note that here we have to account for sticks with height exactly $h/2$, because the set only saves each stick once, so when we are checking the stick of height $h/2$ we need to make sure there are at least of sticks of that height. This time the solution is correct and fast enough! Time to submit.


related content

FSR Coding Cup 2023 🧑‍💻

Results Problems and solutions: GitHub Contest: Codeforces Standings: Codeforces Who? What? Why? When? Where? Who? Everyone who is a student in any semester in any course of study can participate in teams of 1 to 3 people.
read more

Dodgeball Tournament

It’s time for you to represent the Computer Science department in an epic dodgeball tournament! On June 8th in the gym at Justus-von-Liebig Weg 3, we will be playing against teams from the Biology, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Physics departments.
read more

GameJAM in Rostock: ProJAM💻

Make a game during the project week This year too we want to give you the chance to program an application during the project week, but this year you should come up with a video game.
read more