Cordon (pictured right), who is also a recipient of the Olympic Solidarity Scholarship, clinched a first round victory on his fourth match point 21-19 8-21 27-25 at the end of a 74-minute clash.
A thrilled Cordon, who is world-ranked 36, declared: "It's the biggest win in my life by far."
He went on: "To play against one of the top players in the first round is not a good draw but that is what you are training for. So I just said I will play my best game. I will try my best.
"Since March I have been training in Spain with the national team so that has been good. I can play more tournaments here round Europe."
He added: "I'm still excited but this is not the final. I need to keep my focus on my next match on Wednesday."
Cordon's reward is a second round encounter with Sweden's Henri Hurskainen, a 21-8 21-19 winner over England's Carl Baxter.
It was only the second time in his career that Cordon had met a top Chinese, following a second round defeat to Bao Chunlai in the Beijing Olympics.
Chen, 22, who had three match points himself in a tense tussle that had the crowd on the edge of their seats, said: "It's my first world championships. After this I have the chance to get more experience."
Top seed Lee Chong Wei (pictured left) started his bid for his first world title with an opening round 21-15 21-17 success over Thailand's Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk.
The Malaysian world number one had to work hard and the tough Thai took five points in a row in the second game to set up an 11-8 lead.
But Chong Wei, using some deceptive returns of serve, regained control to move safely into the second round.
He told reporters: "I didn't play very well and made a few mistakes. It sometimes happens in the first round."
Ex-world and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat was held at 6-6 in the opening game by Peru's Rodrigo Pachecho Carrillo.
But the Indonesian soon pressed on to lead 15-7 before clinching a 21-10 21-14 victory.
World titleholder Chen Jin, seeded six, raced past Estonia's Raul Must 21-8 21-10 but Japan's Kenichi Tago, seeded 15, lost to India's Ajay Jayaram 21-12 21-19.
Olympic champion, Lin Dan, seeking a fourth world crown, faces Kestutis Navickas of Lithuania in his first match on Tuesday.
In the women's singles tournament, there were mixed fortunes for hosts England. Elizabeth Cann (pictured right) came from behind to beat Michelle Chan Ky of New Zealand 16-21 21-13 21-11 but Sarah Walker lost 21-12 21-8 to France's Pi Hongyan.
Cann said: "It was a bit of a rocky start, I was shaking the nerves out. I was a bit loose at the beginning but as I got into the second game I got into my stride.”
Top seed Wang Shixian of China and Denmark's Tine Baun, Europe's leading hope, start their campaigns on Tuesday.
Wang is up against Bulgarian Linda Zechiri, Baun faces Hong Kong's Chan Tsz Ka.
To view full results of the 2011 Yonex BWF World Badminton Championships, click here.