THE top chess hope in the 32nd global Olympiad next month will be forced to drop out of the team unless sponsors can be found. Despite the recent Olympic successes and the team's determined effort to do well in its last event under the Hong Kong flag, sponsors have proven elusive as firms save their cash for handover festivities next year, say Hong Kong Chess Federation officials. Yang Xian, who brought home a silver medal for a performance second only to that of world chess champion Garry Kasparov from the Manila Olympics four years ago, cannot afford the flight to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, for the two-yearly championships. His absence would spoil Hong Kong's best team since it began going to the Olympics in 1967, said co-team member and number two, Jon Ady. The six-member team and non-playing captain need about $80,000 to pay their air fares. Accommodation is provided by the organiser, the World Chess Federation. The Government would not pay because it did not define chess as a sport, vice-president of the Hong Kong federation Jackson Li Wai-shing said. The Sports Development Board was not available for comment. President Anthony Pang Chun-kau said the interest in sport after the success of the paralympians and Lee Lai-shan was 'very striking' and Hong Kong should make a last push for its best effort. He said it was the last time they were representing Hong Kong before the handover. Past sponsors have included airlines and shipping companies, but they were hard to persuade because international chess was not popular in Hong Kong, said Mr Li. But with former mainland professional player Yang and Ady, both World Federation masters, and four other top players - five times Hong Kong champion Dave Carless, Paul Raynes, Tsang Hon-ki and Kaarlo Schepel - the team expected to get its best ratings.