I'm competing in my second chili cookoff Saturday. Last year, I won "People's Choice" with my Tequila Lime Chili.
Yup, it's got Tequila in it. The alcohol is cooked off, leaving the flavor. Tequila can help foods if eated within a reasonable amount of time (i.e., within a week). Over too much time, Tequila tends to give food a bad taste.
In my chili I used a few techniques from my salsa cooking in my chili. People seem to like it.
Someone said it depends on the meat. I agree that the meat is important. To chili purists, it's almost all important. Use bison or venison in a contest and promote it and you've got a better shot. Use ground turkey and the odds are stacked against you.
I'm not sure if there's an advantage between ground meat and diced or cubed meat. I like ground meat because I think it absorbs the spices better.
One of the things that I had a tough time working through was the timing of the spice additions. I use three dumps. The first is with the meat when I'm searing it. The second is right after that. I bring it to a boil and let it simmer for an hour or more. The final dump, which contains most of the heat, comes 30 minutes before judging. The timing is important because it gets hotter over time.
A few people have said, just dump what you got and it'll work. Yup. It will. But sometimes it's better than others. You need to write stuff down for repeatability. Once I get a recipe I like, I tweak it by changing one or two things at a time to see if it improves.
If you want some great starter recipes, you can't beat the Terlinqua Winners. The only thing better than cooking spicy food is eating it.