CatBoost: unbiased boosting with categorical features

This paper presents the key algorithmic techniques behind CatBoost, a new gradient boosting toolkit. Their combination leads to CatBoost outperforming other publicly available boosting implementations in terms of quality on a variety of datasets. Two critical algorithmic advances introduced in CatBoost are the implementation of ordered boosting, a permutation-driven alternative to the classic algorithm, and an innovative algorithm for processing categorical features. Both techniques were created to fight a prediction shift caused by a special kind of target leakage present in all currently existing implementations of gradient boosting algorithms. In this paper, we provide a detailed analysis of this problem and demonstrate that proposed algorithms solve it effectively, leading to excellent empirical results.