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Combinatorial optimization problems are often too complex to be solved within reasonable time limits by exact methods, in spite of the theoretical guarantee that such methods will ultimately obtain an optimal solution. Instead, heuristic methods, which do not offer a convergence guarantee, but which have greater flexibility to take advantage of special properties of the search space, are commonly a preferred alternative. The standard procedure is to craft a heuristic method to suit the particular characteristics of the problem at hand, exploiting to the extent possible the structure available. Such tailored methods, however, typically have limited usefulness in other problems domains.

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