Response-Based Approachability and its Application to Generalized No-Regret Algorithms

Andrey Bernstein, Nahum Shimkin

Approachability theory, introduced by Blackwell (1956), provides fundamental results on repeated games with vector-valued payoffs, and has been usefully applied since in the theory of learning in games and to learning algorithms in the online adversarial setup. Given a repeated game with vector payoffs, a target set $S$ is approachable by a certain player (the agent) if he can ensure that the average payoff vector converges to that set no matter what his adversary opponent does. Blackwell provided two equivalent sets of conditions for a convex set to be approachable. The first (primary) condition is a geometric separation condition, while the second (dual) condition requires that the set be {\em non-excludable}, namely that for every mixed action of the opponent there exists a mixed action of the agent (a {\em response}) such that the resulting payoff vector belongs to $S$. Existing approachability algorithms rely on the primal condition and essentially require to compute at each stage a projection direction from a given point to $S$. In this paper, we introduce an approachability algorithm that relies on Blackwell's {\em dual} condition. Thus, rather than projection, the algorithm relies on computation of the response to a certain action of the opponent at each stage. The utility of the proposed algorithm is demonstrated by applying it to certain generalizations of the classical regret minimization problem, which include regret minimization with side constraints and regret minimization for global cost functions. In these problems, computation of the required projections is generally complex but a response is readily obtainable.

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