To become a strong Chess player, we recommend a diverse approach to learning Chess, balancing both Theory and Practice. The steps below each have a rating range and time-frame for completion. In total the time-frame spans across 7 years.
This may seem like a long time, however if you start at 10 years old, you can expect to be over 2000 rating points by your 18th birthday. This would put you in the top 100 players in the country!
It is possible to complete all phases sooner than this, but this wholly depends on how hard you work, how much you want to be a stronger player, your "natural ability" to understand and play chess, how young you are when you start, and the quality of your chess coach.
The older you get the harder it is to learn. We recommend starting from the age of 7-10 to maximise your learning curve. Of course, you can start learning chess a lot younger than this - 4 year olds are quite capable of learning and playing Chess!
If you want to be the youngest grandmaster in the world you will have to beat Hou Yifan who did it by age 13! Start at 6 years old or try catching up!!
Acknowledgements: Some parts of the improvement plan outlined above has been adapted from recommendations by Dan Heisman. Dan Heisman is a United States Chess Federation National Master and award-winning Novice Nook columnist, aimed at improving players strength, for the popular Chess Cafe Web site.