This paper presents a new sampling algorithm for approximating functions of variables representable as undirected graphical models of arbitrary connectivity with pairwise potentials, as well as for estimating the notoriously difficult partition function of the graph. The algorithm fits into the framework of sequential Monte Carlo methods rather than the more widely used MCMC, and relies on constructing a sequence of intermediate distributions which get closer to the desired one. While the idea of using ``tempered'' proposals is known, we construct a novel sequence of target distributions where, rather than dropping a global temperature parameter, we sequentially couple individual pairs of variables that are, initially, sampled exactly from a spanning tree of the variables. We present experimental results on inference and estimation of the partition function for sparse and densely-connected graphs.
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