Squared chromatic number without claws or large cliques

Wouter Cames van Batenburg, Ross J. Kang

Let $G$ be a claw-free graph on $n$ vertices with clique number $\omega$, and consider the chromatic number $\chi(G^2)$ of the square $G^2$ of $G$. Writing $\chi'_s(d)$ for the supremum of $\chi(L^2)$ over the line graphs $L$ of simple graphs of maximum degree at most $d$, we prove that $\chi(G^2)\le \chi'_s(\omega)$ for $\omega \in \{3,4\}$. For $\omega=3$, this implies the sharp bound $\chi(G^2) \leq 10$. For $\omega=4$, this implies $\chi(G^2)\leq 22$, which is within $2$ of the conjectured best bound. This work is motivated by a strengthened form of a conjecture of Erd\H{o}s and Ne\v{s}et\v{r}il.

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