Universal Average-Case Optimality of Polyak Momentum
Proceedings of the 37th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 119:8565-8572, 2020.
Polyak momentum (PM), also known as the heavy-ball method, is a widely used optimization method that enjoys an asymptotic optimal worst-case complexity on quadratic objectives. However, its remarkable empirical success is not fully explained by this optimality, as the worst-case analysis –contrary to the average-case– is not representative of the expected complexity of an algorithm. In this work we establish a novel link between PM and the average-case analysis. Our main contribution is to prove that any optimal average-case method converges in the number of iterations to PM, under mild assumptions. This brings a new perspective on this classical method, showing that PM is asymptotically both worst-case and average-case optimal.