Chennai: Country's leading cueists will be seen in action during the nearly month-long National billiards and snooker championship which gets underway here on Monday.

After a five-year gap, the championship has returned to the city with the main rounds of billiards event taking place from July 26 to 30, followed by snooker from August 4-9.

The 78th senior national billiards & snooker championship has attracted top Indian players including seven-time world title holder and reigning national snooker champion Pankaj Advani, reigning national billiards champion Alok Kumar, Aditya Mehta, Yasin Merchant, Ashok Shandliya along with former world champion Geet Sethi.

The Nationals, considered the qualifying event for Asian and World championships, opens with the sub-junior, junior and ladies competitions in both billiards and snooker.

The ladies events will have sisters Meenal Thakur and Anuja Chandra, local challenger and 2010 Australian Open champion Vidya Pillai, 2007 World billiards champion Chitra Magimairaj and Uma Devi being dominant figures.

Eight-time world billiards champion Geet Sethi conceded that advancing age has caught up with him and he was only playing to about 70 per cent of his capacity.

"...but for me, national championship is a key event and I don't want to miss it. Chennai has a special place in my career. It all began here but that was nearly 30 years ago.

"In 2006, I played probably my worst match, losing in the pre-quarterfinals. But I hope to do well this time," said the 50-year-old veteran.
Asian Games billiards gold medallist Advani said he is confident of defending his title in the snooker event and win back his lost glory in the billiards in the Nationals.

"I am confident of retaining the National title in the snooker event and also win back the billiards title from Alok Mehta. Players like Alok, Geet Sethi, Dhruv Sitwala will present a tough challenge in the championship but I am hopeful of delivering the best," said Advani.