"The idea is to simulate competitive chess, when the player does not know the theme of a combination, or even the exact problem."
Igor Sukhin's Chess Gems was a pleasant surprise from Mongoose Press. Not only is the book well done (more on that in a moment), but I have to give the publisher love for producing a chess book that isn't embarrassing to carry around. Not to judge a book by it's cover (well actually, to do exactly that), but anybody who has seen the cover of recent books like Gambit publishing's new edition of the AMAZING Secrets of Pawn Endings (the much better original cover can be seen here), has to agree that chess book covers are often embarrassingly ugly. So hats off to Mongoose Press for producing a chess book I wouldn't be afraid to read in public.
But back to the book. Chess Gems is fantastic. While in one sense Sukhin's work is very run of the mill, merely a collection of 1,000 chess puzzles, the presentation is original and the samples are well chosen. The positions are organized chronologically instead of the typical thematic or difficulty-based organization. I found this surprisingly enjoyable as flipping through the book was a journey through chess history. Chapters five (on Anderssen and Morphy) and eleven (on Capablance, Alekhine, and Euwe) are particularly enjoyable. Sukhin even includes a chapter on Shatranj.
Each chapter includes a brief historical overview alongside a number of examples with text explanations and analysis. Then at the end of each chapter is a "How Would You Play?" section of exercises. Again, this is typical fare, but beautifully presented.
If you're looking for a relaxing book where you'll learn a good deal about the history of chess and improve your tactical skills, don't hesitate to order Chess Gems, one of the most refreshing books of it's kind that I've seen.