a defensive spade

Reply Mon 26 Aug, 2013 02:21 am
If either of the young men was seriously “making the running,” it was probable that she would hear some sly hint or open comment about it from one of Serena’s gossip-laden friends, without having to go out of her way to introduce the subject and unduly disclose her own state of ignorance. And a game of bridge, played for moderately high points, gave ample excuse for convenient lapses into reticence; if questions took an embarrassingly inquisitive turn, one could always find refuge in a defensive spade

What does "a defensive spade" mean here?
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Reply Mon 26 Aug, 2013 04:36 am
In the game of bridge, spades is the highest value suit for bidding purposes. So any bid of another suit either by one's partner, or the opponents, can be supported or countered by a bid of "spades" at the same level. This would be useful to the relatively ignorant partner who failed to understand the informational significance of the bidding sequence and was uncertain of extending the bid to the next level.
Here, the phrase seems to be used as a metaphor for a "non-committal reply".
Reply Tue 27 Aug, 2013 02:54 am
I note there have been discussions of this on other forums which fail to identify the metaphor . The gist of the phrase is "to maintain the initiative in an exchange without commiting oneself to revelation".
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Reply Thu 29 Aug, 2013 05:04 am
What does "non-committal" mean?
Reply Thu 29 Aug, 2013 12:48 pm
...neither confirming nor denying specific information.

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