Chess club player progression
1) Learn Scholars Mate, rinse repeat vs. your classmates. Collect trophy.
2) Play for Scholar's mate and lose. Probably against an older student. Ponder how they were able to stop it. Now every time you sit at the board you no longer feel invincible and that early Queen move seems like hoping instead of decimating.
3) Now you discover that Knights fork on c7 and f7. New strategy playing lots of Ng5 and Nb5, fork you classmates and then collect material. Revel in games where you are up 3 pieces. Now you are Class Champion 2nd year running. Put Trophy on shelf next to 3rd place little league and 8th place 100 meter dash.
4) Lose game where Ng5 is kicked off with h6 or Russian school boy transfers to your school and plays a quick 0-0-0 leaving you completely baffled.
5) Go back to the drawing board, avoid Russian School Boy except when he plays the Philidor with an early Bg4.
6) Nothing wins, go through funk where you probably threw a piece or your board. Best if done out of the window of a moving car as the board slides well on winter ice.
7) Discover the idea of attacking a defending piece. Pins become your new weapon. At this point you trade your trusty 1. e4 2. Bc4 for the clever. 2. Nf3 3. Bb5 and a pin!
8) Older School kid plays a6 and b5 and you discover the word "theory." You had no idea that old people actually keep notation of their games. Go to library, look at pictures of old men with funny moustaches, glasses and suits. Look up Austria on map.
9) Grandfather shows you Opera Game. You don’t understand why Morphy didn't chomp the pawn on b7.
10) Lose miserably in Class championship to Russian Schoolboy who launches pawns at you and rips your kingside apart. Cry in bathroom when no one is looking. At 10 you are no longer a chess genius.
11) Don't look at a board for 6 months. Avoid all chances to play, don't visit Grandparents as that might result in a chess game.
12) Cute girl playing chess, you decide to show off your knowledge. This leads to playing. Check out chess books to impress girl. Discover the name Capablanca. Play d4 and stodgy.
13) Continue playing d4. Most students are confused and answer 1.. e5. Win many easy games.
13) School Championship. Consider tampering with Russian Schoolboy's food. Lose in Nimzo-Indian. Tell girlfriend you only lost because of an oversight. Obviously you were winning.
14) Learn cool terms like Weak Square, strong point. Play stodgy strategic games where the center is always closed and piece shuffling is key. Get used to pawn structure of a3 b4 vs a6 and b5.
15) Claim all losses were brilliant strategy being ruined by a coffeehouse (who drinks coffee anyway) tactic.
16) Russian Schoolboy moves. Win championship, graduate to middle school.
17) Puberty hits. Chess set gets put in closet. Replaced by Rock band poster and swimsuit pinup.
18) College, impress cute foreign girl by your chess playing. Lose to her in Budapest Gambit where she mates with Nd3. Breakup 4 weeks later. Cry in rain, mope and wear black until new random girl finds your inconsolable artistic suffering cute. Break up with her 2 weeks later once confidence is restored.
19) Adulthood - take up chess when job gets stale and long time girlfriend isn't likely to move out. Go online. Discover whole chess world. Play blitz on ICC. Lose miserably. Buy MCO. Find mysterious development moves like Be2 distasteful.
20) buy more openings books. Discover pawn structure, look at old blitz games, marvel at double pawns, isolated pawns and Irish pawn centers. Still lose. Rating 1200 after 1000 1 min games.
21) Buy Chessbase. Now you have technology! Buy opening DVDs, buy opening books. Buy Bookup. Convinced you will now out theory your opponents. Rating 1300 1500 1 min games.
22) Buy openings books, buy chess biographies. Read everything printed, skip chess notation and diagrams. Start getting to move 10 in your "book" rating 1450.
23) Can articulate all opening names, who invented them and pontificate about them to everyone you know as you are now a serious player. Post on online forums. Avoid tactics and mating exercises because you are "too good" for that now.
24) rating 1500. Hire chess coach. Discover Russian Schoolboy is 2500. Pay old school mate 40 dollars an hour to explain basic endgame theory. Make excuses for why you are not 1800 yet.
25) Play tournaments. Marvel at how much tougher 1500 is OTB. Post more online as you are now an OTB player.
26) Buy more openings book, an endgame brick and biographies of less famous players like Keres, Bronstein, and Tony Miles. Experiment with St George Defense, Grob and BDG online because you are sick of losing in the Modern Benoni on ICC.
27) Stop lessons as a year has gone by and your rating has not moved. Economy has rolled over and now you can only afford to buy Openings books and not lessons.
28) Take break, play Starcraft, Halo or some other game. Girlfriend suggests that marriage might be a good idea. Avoid question by leading a clan in videogame.
29) Get girlfriend to play game. Clan breaks up due to losing girlfriend to clan mate who lives in rural Alabama. Move out, try the reliable suffering artist look. Attract no one.
30) Get sucked back into tournament chess. Buy more opening books, new version of Chessbase. Economy improves, hire chess teacher. This time, local FM who is universally considered "under-rated".
31) Forced to study tactics. Rating drops, still not 1800. Make fewer excuses. Replace opening books with new opening book on same line- can't fall behind on theory.
32) Start blog. New girlfriend. Become a De la Maza advocate. Move all Opening books to basement. Girlfriend moves in, alternate pictures of vacations, political opinions and half baked philosophy in place of tactics update.
33) Get engaged. Never tell girlfriend about Starcraft incident. Buy tactics books, software and iphone apps. Realize you are 20 lbs heavier. Start old man jogging.
34) Forget to post on blog for 2 months, only post once to say you will post soon. Wedding planning eats up chess time. Rating 1625 thanks to a lucky tournament. Take 3 month breaks between tournaments.
35) Married, kids imminent. No longer need chess coach. Sell half your chess book collection to FM. Marvel at titles like "Play the Bird Larsen to win!" and "Shabby Pawn Sac's against the Stodge." Write Andrew Soltis requesting to know what island he bought with your money from said books. No response from GM Soltis.
36) Kids become teenagers and no longer want you around. Play CC chess on Redhot Pawn. Avoid Forums because you have read they are dominated by angry punk kids. Dig out chess books. Buy new MCO, Chessbase, fritz 12. Renew ICC sub and try to find out what happened to Fm.
37) Visit FM's grave, wonder why he lived in closet in Budapest for 2 years trying to get IM title. Contact Russian schoolboy GM - pay 60 dollars a lesson.
38) Still not 1800. Play tournament. Switch to c4 and Nf3 openings. Play Caro Kann and Dutch Stonewall to avoid young punk tactical play.
39) Lose to a 1300 who is younger than your children.
40) Try to convince your children to play, lose to video games and shopping.
41) Buy more openings books, they are like seeing an old friend. Start new blog, deny ever being a De La Maza follower. Join Adult Improvement blogosphere. Post infrequently, mention your cats and children often.
42) Fire Russian gm, you are now rated 1650.
tl:dr Study tactics