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Global Convergence to Local Minmax Equilibrium in Classes of Nonconvex Zero-Sum Games

Tanner Fiez · Lillian Ratliff · Eric Mazumdar · Evan Faulkner · Adhyyan Narang

Keywords: [ Optimization ] [ Theory ]

Abstract: We study gradient descent-ascent learning dynamics with timescale separation ($\tau$-GDA) in unconstrained continuous action zero-sum games where the minimizing player faces a nonconvex optimization problem and the maximizing player optimizes a Polyak-Lojasiewicz (PL) or strongly-concave (SC) objective. In contrast to past work on gradient-based learning in nonconvex-PL/SC zero-sum games, we assess convergence in relation to natural game-theoretic equilibria instead of only notions of stationarity. In pursuit of this goal, we prove that the only locally stable points of the $\tau$-GDA continuous-time limiting system correspond to strict local minmax equilibria in each class of games. For these classes of games, we exploit timescale separation to construct a potential function that when combined with the stability characterization and an asymptotic saddle avoidance result gives a global asymptotic almost-sure convergence guarantee for the discrete-time gradient descent-ascent update to a set of the strict local minmax equilibrium. Moreover, we provide convergence rates for the gradient descent-ascent dynamics with timescale separation to approximate stationary points.

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