Shahbaz is set to face tough opposition from last year's runner-up at Chandigarh, Kamal Chawla who is also the national snooker runner-up, Dhruv Sitwala and Manan Chandra, apart from up and coming juniors Laxman Rawat of Delhi and Mizoram's Lalrina Renthlei, the India no. 3 in the juniors.
Missing from the fray in the championship, considered snooker's version of T20 cricket, would be two-time national snooker champion Aditya Mehta who would be busy on the world pro circuit.
In the women's draw are national billiards champion Arantzxa Sanchis, Anuja Thakur-Chandra, Meenal Thakur, defending champion Chitra Magimairaj, Uma Devi and national 9-ball pool winner Suniti Damani.
The qualifying rounds for spotting 48 players who would be advancing to the main draw of 64 commenced yesterday. The qualifiers end on June 5.
The main draw would have 16 groups of four players each and the top two from each group in the round robin would cruise into the knock-out round of 32, it was announced at a media conference.
The qualifying and round robin matches are to be held over best-of-7 frames, round of 32 and pre-quarters over best-of-9, quarters and semis over best-of-11 and the final, scheduled on June 10, is to be fought over 13 frames.
In today's qualifying phase, Mitang Soni and Rahul Narang, both of Maharashtra, snatched exciting wins in deciding frames.
Soni snuffed out a late challenge from Vilas Upsham after leading 3-0 to surge to a hard-fought 35-4, 36-8, 40-36, 28-30, 6-40, 20-34, 47-14 win in the second round. More