The 46-year-old from Malta won his first round match at the World Snooker Academy to set up a meeting with Michael White and move to within three victories of securing a place at September's tournament in China.
Others to post opening wins included Liam Highfield, Rod Lawler and Luca Brecel.
Qualifying runs from Tuesday to Friday, with eight places on the flight to China up for grabs at the end of four rounds of play.
Round one results:
1) Hossein Vafaei Ayouri 0-5 Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon
2) Chen Zhe 4-5 Scott Donaldson
3) Paul Davison 2-5 Aditya Mehta
4) Craig Steadman 3-5 Luca Brecel
5) Jamie O'Neill 4-5 Tony Drago
6) Ian Burns 5-1 Pankaj Advani
7) Liam Highfield 5-3 Zhang Anda
8) David Grace 5-2 Michael Leslie
9) Robbie Williams 5-0 Floyd Ziegler
10) Sam Baird 2-5 Ben Judge
11) Martin O'Donnell 4-5 Fraser Patrick
12) Rod Lawler 5-0 Gareth Allen
13) Daniel Wells 1-5 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
14) Sean O'Sullivan 4-5 Tian Pengfei
15) Kurt Maflin w/o Mohamed Khairy
16) Joel Walker 0-5 Cao Yupeng