Product and Puzzle Formulae for $GL_n$ Belkale-Kumar Coefficients

  • Allen Knutson
  • Kevin Purbhoo


The Belkale-Kumar product on $H^*(G/P)$ is a degeneration of the usual cup product on the cohomology ring of a generalized flag manifold. In the case $G=GL_n$, it was used by N. Ressayre to determine the regular faces of the Littlewood-Richardson cone.

We show that for $G/P$ a $(d-1)$-step flag manifold, each Belkale-Kumar structure constant is a product of $d\choose 2$ Littlewood-Richardson numbers, for which there are many formulae available, e.g. the puzzles of [Knutson-Tao '03]. This refines previously known factorizations into $d-1$ factors. We define a new family of puzzles to assemble these to give a direct combinatorial formula for Belkale-Kumar structure constants.

These "BK-puzzles" are related to extremal honeycombs, as in [Knutson-Tao-Woodward '04]; using this relation we give another proof of Ressayre's result.

Finally, we describe the regular faces of the Littlewood-Richardson cone on which the Littlewood-Richardson number is always $1$; they correspond to nonzero Belkale-Kumar coefficients on partial flag manifolds where every subquotient has dimension $1$ or $2$.

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