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I attached a link that takes you to my rating supplement for the USCF. You can click around and find out my actual tournament performances too but this is a rough estimate of a real life experience.
The background:I started playing chess in 2001 when I was 12 years old. I then played in the chess club in 8th grade. We were not associated with the USCF in any way but we just played for fun. I stopped playing in about 2005. I would estimate my rating then to be around 1000 USCF if I had to guess.I picked chess back up last year around March and since then I have played blitz games (time and time again against stronger and weaker players), I have studied tactics (Forcing Chess Moves, Improve Your Chess Tactics, and Tactics Trainer on chess.com), I have studied a little of My System (mainly the first two chapters only). I have played in several tournaments and I play in a 5 week long tournament at my club where we play one game each week with time control of G/90 5/D. If you didn't go to the link my rating went from 1277 (after provisional ratings) in Ocotber of last year to my latest supplement rating which would be August of this year at 1494 (recently when down from 1524 after playing badly in a couple tournaments).
So I would say that would be reasonable expectations if you study a little bit and play games. If you put more time in and analyze your games deeper and longer and study with people stronger than you. Also, I believe with the ability to grasp information and apply it quicker than myself you could improve faster rating wise as well.
I hope that is more of answer you were looking for than some of these other answers.
ps. I do have to add that I studied with an IM for about 2 months at 2 hours a week. I believe it helped but not as much as it should have because I did not have the time to really dedicate to doing some of the outside things he suggested. Also, he was teaching me like I was 2000 USCF.
Result is equal to effort put in...but obviously, however good you are now or end up being, you'll always have been able to of been "more", had you started younger perhaps.
Life is full of "ifs." If doesn't matter.
Thanks streetfighter... i know a coach would be perfect but indeed it costs something. I try to teach things myself (entered into a club for one year now and played just my first tournament) but indeed I realize the higher you are the more difficult it becomes. In my first chess year i have been beaten by someone with 1495 elo but i also played equal against somebody with 1963 elo. So I guess i have some feeling but not enough experience and not enough theoretical background.
Maybe this could be my plan for next season (starting in one week) : finish a book from Nunn (middlegame knowledge) + go through the study plan on this site for intermediate players and eventually advanced when it comes available ; then try to use this information in the club matches and play some tournaments as well (specially open tournaments in order to play stronger ones as I don't mind loosing because this is the way I learn the most from them). Third year let's see where we are and after evaluation maybe then a chess teacher could be welcome.
What do you think ? Good plan or would you approach it in a different way ? Thanks for your answer I appreciate.
Half a year later, my new rating has come out at 1529 :) And the best thing is that this most likely still isn't very up to date, as my 8,5/9 result at the wijk aan zee 9-round event and my win over a 1730 player are not calculated in that rating. Answering my own question in hindsight, it seems that young adults can easily achieve rating improvements of hundreds of points at the beginner-intermediate level if they work hard at their game.