It took this long...
Oh happy day. It's not going to last long, but I've finally, legitimately broken 1600!! My highest is 1792, but it was a lucky fluke. I was playing against a friend and he made a mistake somewhere in the game where I pinned his queen and he resigned.
Since joining the site last year in May (I think that's when I signed up), I shot up to 1792 and it was all downhill from there. For months, I really struggled to get over 1200. I don't know why, but I just couldn't win a game to save my life and I was thinking of giving up chess. I would throw away pieces and develop minor pieces into unprotected areas. I didn't know how to protect my king at all.
Earlier this year, around February or March, I was able to hang in the 1350 range thinking I was lucky and soon I'll drop back down again. Slowly, but steadily, with dips along the way I was able to stay in the 1400s for a while. When I got into the 1500s, I thought, "OK, this lucky streak is going to end pretty soon and it will be back down to the 1300 - 1400 range for me."
Sometimes I still lose to players ranked 200 - 300 points below me, so I don't know how much stock I put into the ratings system. Probably not a whole lot. I wonder how this would translate in real life in USCF tournaments and stuff.
Oddly, I don't feel like I'm any better than I was last year. I know one thing that has helped me on this site is Tactics Trainer. When I had my trial diamond membership, I did a million puzzles a day (got my rating up to 1929 or something on there) and soon started to recognize some of the patterns and tactics in games. Other than that, I still feel like I make moves with no real purpose and that I can really only see two or three moves ahead at best. I never have a real strategy or plan and I sometimes don't know how to react to my opponents moves or traps.
What do I do now? Should I actually start seriously studying chess to improve?