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In the mathematical discipline of graph theory, a matching or independent edge set in a graph is a set of edges without common vertices. Finding a matching in a bipartite graph can be treated as a network flow problem. In the mathematical discipline of graph theory, a matching or independent edge set in a graph is a set of edges without common vertices. Finding a matching in a bipartite graph can be treated as a network flow problem. Given a graph G = (V,E), a matching M in G is a set of pairwise non-adjacent edges, none of which are loops; that is, no two edges share a common vertex. A vertex is matched (or saturated) if it is an endpoint of one of the edges in the matching. Otherwise the vertex is unmatched. A maximal matching is a matching M of a graph G with the property that if any edge not in M is added to M, it is no longer a matching, that is, M is maximal if it is not a subset of any other matching in graph G. In other words, a matching M of a graph G is maximal if every edge in G has a non-empty intersection with at least one edge in M. The following figure shows examples of maximal matchings (red) in three graphs. A maximum matching (also known as maximum-cardinality matching) is a matching that contains the largest possible number of edges. There may be many maximum matchings. The matching number ν ( G ) {displaystyle u (G)} of a graph G {displaystyle G} is the size of a maximum matching. Note that every maximum matching is maximal, but not every maximal matching is a maximum matching. The following figure shows examples of maximum matchings in the same three graphs. A perfect matching (a.k.a. 1-factor) is a matching which matches all vertices of the graph. That is, every vertex of the graph is incident to exactly one edge of the matching. Every perfect matching is maximum and hence maximal. In some literature, the term complete matching is used. In the above figure, only part (b) shows a perfect matching. A perfect matching is also a minimum-size edge cover. Thus, ν(G) ≤ ρ(G) , that is, the size of a maximum matching is no larger than the size of a minimum edge cover. A perfect matching can only occur when the graph has an even number of vertices. A near-perfect matching is one in which exactly one vertex is unmatched. This can only occur when the graph has an odd number of vertices, and such a matching must be maximum. In the above figure, part (c) shows a near-perfect matching. If, for every vertex in a graph, there is a near-perfect matching that omits only that vertex, the graph is also called factor-critical. Given a matching M, One can prove that a matching is maximum if and only if it does not have any augmenting path. (This result is sometimes called Berge's lemma.)

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