Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a question like how can we mathematically prove that for a general matrix Conjugate Gradient method will always converge within n steps in exact arithmetic ? where n is the size of the matrix.

share|cite|improve this question
You are welcome! – Inquest Nov 17 '12 at 23:11
thank you Inquest – Anonym Nov 17 '12 at 23:48
That paper Inquest posted is really good – Nick Alger Nov 18 '12 at 2:02

The CG method, like other Krylov methods, finds a "best" solution to $A x=b$ on successively larger subspaces. In particular, the n'th subspace is $\text{span}(x_0, Ax_0, A^2 x_0, ..., A^n x_0)$, and "best" means the point where the residual is orthogonal to the subspace.

Since you keep adding vectors to your subspace and the full space is finite dimensional, eventually there are only 2 possibilities. Either

1) the subspace fills up the whole space, in which case the "best" solution corresponds to the true solution, or

2) at some point $A^{k+1} x_0 \in \text{span}(x_0, Ax_0, A^2 x_0, ..., A^k x_0)$. This might seem bad, but it's actually a "happy coincidence" since it means $\text{span}(x_0, Ax_0, A^2 x_0, ..., A^k x_0)$ is a direct sum of $k$ eigenspaces. Everything that starts in there will stay in there under application of $A$, and everything orthogonal to it will stay orthogonal. (note that $A$ is symmetric so it's eigenvectors are orthogonal)

If the true solution is in this eigenspace we would have found it, and if it isnt' we can just pick a point orthogonal to the eigenspace and start again, having reduced the problem by $k$ dimensions.

share|cite|improve this answer
Doesnt the fact of using $b$ as the first guess $x_0$ remove this second possibility ? Knowing that $A$ is non-singular, we have the same subspace of order $k$ for $A^{-1}$. Now if $x = A^{-1}b$ isn't in the image of this subspace (i.e. you reach point 2 without having the true solution yet), it would imply that $b$ isn't in the subspace either. So by contraposition, $b$ in the subspace means $x$ is too, and the best way to do that is to generate the Krylov subspaces with $x_0 = b$ – Cimbali Sep 30 '13 at 8:55
Actually that's what happens when you set your first guess to $0$, then you first search direction is $b-A . 0 = b$ – Cimbali Sep 30 '13 at 9:54

When you use CG (or just about any of the common Krylov subspace methods), what you are really doing is solving a certain polynomial approximation problem. Suppose you are trying to solve the problem $Ax = b$ using CG with starting guess $x_0$. Let $x_k$ be the $k^\textrm{th}$ CG iterate, and let $e_k = x - x_k$ be the error at step $k$. Let $\lambda_1, \ldots \lambda_n$ be the eigenvalues of $A$. Then it can be shown that

$$ ||e_k||_A = \inf_{p \in P_k} || p_k(A)e_0 ||_A \leq ||e_0||_A \inf_{p \in P_k} \max_{1 \leq j \leq n} |p_k(\lambda_j)|, $$

where $P_k$ is the space of polynomials of degree at most $k$ and $||\cdot||_A$ is the vector norm defined by

$$ ||v||_A = \sqrt{v^*Av}. $$

The error in the CG iteration is thus determined by one's ability to generate polynomials that are "small" on the spectrum of $A$. At the $n^\textrm{th}$ step, we are allowed to draw the optimal polynomial from $P_n$. Since $A$ has at most $n$ distinct eigenvalues, you can choose $p_n$ to have roots at all of the eigenvalues of $A$, which reduces the error to zero.

As a corollary, if $A$ has fewer than $n$ distinct eigenvalues, the iteration will actually converge in fewer than $n$ steps!

See Lecture 38 in Trefethen and Bau's Numerical Linear Algebra for an excellent discussion of this. The document in the link posted by Inquest is very good as well.

share|cite|improve this answer
thank you user48944 – Anonym Nov 17 '12 at 23:49

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.