This is a continuation of the project outlined in this post yesterday of describing Grothendieck’s proof that the fundamental group of a smooth curve in characteristic has topological generators (where is the genus). The first step, as I explained there, is to show that one may “lift” such smooth curves to characteristic zero, in order that a comparison may be made between the characteristic curve and something much more concrete in characteristic zero, that we can approach via topological methods. This post will be devoted to showing that such a lifting is always possible.

**1. Introduction**

It is a general question of when one can “lift” varieties in characteristic to characteristic zero. Doing so often allows one to bring in transcendental techniques (to the lift), as it will in this case of . Let us thus be formal:

Definition 4Let be a proper, smooth scheme of finite type over a field of characteristic . We say that aliftingof is the data of a DVR of characteristic zero with residue field , and a proper, smooth morphism whose special fiber is isomorphic to .

There are obstructions that can prevent one from making such a lifting. One example is given by étale cohomology. A combination of the so-called proper and smooth base change theorems implies that, in such a situation, the cohomology of the special fiber and the cohomology of the general fiber, with coefficients in any finite group without -torsion, are isomorphic. As a result, if there is something funny in the étale cohomology of , it might not be liftable. See this MO question.

In the case of curves, fortunately, it turns out there are no such problems, but still actually lifting one will take some work. We aim to prove:

Theorem 5Let be a smooth, proper curve of finite type over the field of characteristic . Then if is any complete DVR of characteristic zero with residue field , there is a smooth lifting of .

One should, of course, actually check that such a complete DVR does exist. But this is a general piece of algebra, found for instance in Serre’s *Local Fields.*

The reason there won’t be any obstructions in the case of curves is that they are of dimension one, but we’ll see that the cohomological obstructions to lifting all live in .

The strategy, in fact, will be to lift to a sequence of smooth schemes (where is the maximal ideal) that each lift each other, using the local nilpotent lifting property of smooth morphisms.

This family is an example of a so-called *formal scheme,* which for our purposes is just such a compatible sequence of liftings. Obviously any scheme gives rise to a formal scheme (take the base-changes to ), but it is actually nontrivial (i.e., not always true) to show that a formal scheme is indeed of this form. But we will be able to do this as well in the case of curves.

**2. Local lifting of smooth schemes**

Let us start by lifting the smooth curve to a sequence of schemes , following the program outlined earlier. It will be convenient to do this in a more general setting. Let be a base scheme, and let be a subscheme defined by an ideal of square zero. Suppose is a smooth scheme. We want to know if there is a smooth scheme whose restriction to is . In general, this need not exist, but the next result states that the smooth lifting does *locally.*

Hereafter, all schemes are noetherian.

Proposition 6 (Local lifting of smooth morphisms)Lifting to a smooth -scheme can always be done locally. If , there is a neighborhood of , a smooth scheme such that .Moreover, any two liftings are locally -isomorphic. If is affine, and lift the open affine , there is an -isomorphism .

Of course, it is not very deep to lift the schemes themselves: the composite would do. The point is to preserve essential properties (in this case, smoothness).

*Proof:* We are going to deduce it from the “équivalence remarkable de catégories” of Grothendieck, that states the following: if is a closed subscheme defined by an ideal of square zero, then base-change gives an *equivalence of categories* between the collection of schemes étale over and the schemes étale over . In other words, étale -schemes can be lifted globally (and uniquely). For smooth morphisms the statement is weaker.

Indeed, we note that (by one characterization of smoothness) there is a neighborhood of such that the map

factors as a composite

where is étale. Now then extends *uniquely* to a scheme étale over . This is the lifting we want.

Finally we need to show local uniqueness of the lifting. We will do this using the *infinitesimal lifting property*. Let be affine, . Suppose and are affine, without loss of generality, say where is an ideal of square zero. By hypothesis, we are given two smooth -algebras (whose spectra are the two liftings ), together with an isomorphism

But here we use the infinitesimal lifting property of smooth morphisms. Namely, the map

can be lifted to an -homomorphism because is -smooth. This homomorphism, moreover, induces the identity mod (when both are identified with ). The claim is that this is an isomorphism, which follows from the next lemma.

Lemma 7Let be a noetherian ring. Let be flat -algebras, and let be an ideal of square zero. If a map is such that the reduction mod , , is an isomorphism, then is itself an isomorphism.

*Proof:* Indeed, we note that by flatness, . Similarly for . That is, flatness makes the associated graded behave nicely. But, again by flatness:

and consequently the map is an isomorphism. In particular, the map induces an isomorphism on the associated gradeds of the -adic filtration. Since is nilpotent, this gives the result. The point of the lemma is that determine the associated gradeds by flatness.

In the proof of the above result, we showed something more specific than just local unicity. When the base and the target are *affine*, then any two smooth liftings are isomorphic (noncanonically, in general).

**3. Global lifting**

So we can always lift smooth things locally. Of course, there will be lots of ways of doing that in general, and the question is whether we can patch them together. In the étale case, there are no nontrivial automorphisms of the lifting: that is, the functor of base-changing by is fully faithful (by the infinitesimal lifting property for étale morphisms). As a result, there is no problem patching local liftings.

For smooth morphisms, the problem is more delicate. We can always lift locally, but to patch the liftings one needs a “cocycle” condition, which is not automatic. As a result, there is a cohomological obstruction to lifting that comes from these automorphisms.

Let be a smooth -scheme. Suppose as a subscheme defined by an ideal of square zero. We are going to define a *sheaf* on as follows: for each , will denote the set of -automorphisms (where is the pre-image of in ) inducing the identity on .

We shall use:

Lemma 8The sheaf is canonically isomorphic to a quasi-coherent sheaf on , which is independent of the lifting .

This is a remarkable statement. It is clear that can be made into a *sheaf* of groups (since is defined by an ideal of square zero, it is easy to see that an automorphism of restricts to an automorphism of ). In fact it is not even obvious a priori that this sheaf of groups is a sheaf of abelian groups.

*Proof:* To see this, we will start by assuming (and consequently ) affine. Say . Then we are looking for the set of -homomorphisms

that induce the identity . Such a map is necessarily of the form , where is an -homomorphism. One requires, of course:

Since , this is equivalent to saying that is an *-derivation* .

One can check that the composite , as the composite of two -derivations , is always zero. As a result, the *group* of such automorphisms is isomorphic to the group of derivations.

Such derivations are classified by maps of -modules

However, these are the same as maps of -modules because is a -module, as . It follows that the sheaf in question is the sheaf

where is the ideal of square zero cut that cuts out . Note that is an -module. This is coherent and completely independent of : indeed, it is also isomorphic to

where is the dual of the (locally free) cotangent sheaf and is the ideal of in . This depends on the embedding but not the lifting .

Now let us try to analyze the situation we are ultimately interested in. Let be a smooth separated scheme, where is a subscheme defined by an ideal of square zero. For simplicity, let us assume affine, since that is the only case we shall need. We know that there is an open affine cover of consisting of schemes that lift to smooth affine -schemes such that

Now, for each , we have two liftings of the *affine* scheme : namely, and .

By *formal* smoothness (namely, the infinitesimal lifting property), we have isomorphisms

that induce the identity . This is where we have used the affineness and separatedness hypotheses. The hope is that these would satisfy the cocycle condition, and that we could glue all the together. Unfortunately, they needn’t.

So let’s recall the cocycle condition: for any three indices , one must have

If we had this, then we could just glue the and get a smooth lifting of to .

What we can do is to consider the differences , which are automorphisms of . By the previous lemma, this is a 2-Cech cocycle with values in the sheaf defined as above, over the open cover . (One should check that it is actually a 2- cocycle, but this is formal.)

Now, if it were a boundary, then we would be done and we could make the lifting. For if we have a 1-cochain in , this would be a collection of automorphisms of each such that, for each triple , one has:

The point is now that if this 2-cocycle is a coboundary, then we can use the to *modify* the transition maps (by, say, precomposition) so as to have satisfied the cocycle condition. In particular, if the Cech of this sheaf vanishes with respect to the open cover , the lifting exists.

Note that this is a good Cech cover of because is separated and eaech is affine. It follows that if is of dimension one and , then the lifting exists.

Corollary 9Let be a smooth curve. Let be a DVR with residue field and maximal ideal . Then there is a compatible system of smooth schemes .

**4. From formal to actual**

Let be a smooth curve. If is a complete DVR with residue field , then we have seen how to lift to a sequence of compatible smooth schemes by the previous section. Namely, we first lift to , lift that to , and continue repeatedly. This is still rather far from our ultimate goal, which is a smooth, proper scheme .

Now, with the mechanics of the lifting procedure behind us, we want to turn the system of schemes into an actual scheme. We have already stated that this is a so-called *formal scheme*, which we will denote by the symbol , and write formally

to indicate the system of maps . We shall think of formal schemes very naively; we do not need to worry about their general theory, so shall treat them as a black box here. We shall write , and similarly for for .

We now that one way of obtaining a formal scheme is to start with an actual scheme and consider each of the reductions mod . Such formal schemes are said to be **algebrizable.** This is the formal analog of complex analytic spaces that come from algebraic varieties. There are formal schemes, even proper ones, that are not algebrizable, so we are going to need a special tool in the case of curves.

That tool is:

Theorem 10Let be a complete local ring, a formal scheme. Suppose is proper. Suppose moreover there is a compatible system of line bundles on each such that is very ample on .Then there is a projective morphism , such that the “formal scheme” is obtained from : that is, is algebrizable.

This is a consequence of Grothendieck’s “formal GAGA” and appears in EGA III.5. We shall not prove this.

But we shall use it. Consider a formal scheme obtained by successively lifting a smooth proper curve over the residue field . Now is projective, so it has a very ample line bundle on it. If we can lift this to each , then the above result will imply that the formal scheme is algebrizable, and then we will have lifted to characteristic zero.

Here the fact that we are in dimension one saves us (again!), because we can successively lift the ample line bundle step by step. We use:

Lemma 11Let be a scheme of dimension one, a closed subscheme defined by an ideal of square zero. Then the map is surjective.

*Proof:* Suppose is defined by the ideal of square zero. There is an exact sequence

where the first map sends . This is a general fact about rings, even. Now since (and similarly for ), the long exact sequence in cohomology and gives the result.

It follows that we can lift the sequence of smooth schemes to a projective scheme . The only thing left to see is that is smooth over . This follows because it is smooth on the special fiber: indeed, one checks flatness by the infinitesimal criterion. It is a general fact that if is a finite-type morphism of noetherian schemes, and is such that the fiber is smooth over and is flat at , then is smooth at . With this in mind, it is clear that is smooth on the specific fiber.

But this means in particular that is smooth everywhere! Indeed, the smooth locus of a morphism is always open. Let be the collection of points where is not smooth. Then the image of is closed because is proper over , but this image does not contain the closed point; as a result, it is empty. So is -smooth.

This completes the proof that smooth curves can be lifted to characteristic zero.

June 19, 2011 at 3:37 pm

[…] interested in determining a set of topological generators for this curve. To do this, we started by showing that if is a complete DVR with residue field , then one can “lift” (by using […]

June 20, 2011 at 11:17 pm

[…] Past posts were devoted to showing that a smooth proper curve could always be “lifted” to characteristic zero, via a proper smooth map (with a complete discrete valuation ring) […]