Open an obsidian note (make sure no other panes are open). Ctrl+click on a link in that note. A new pane will open to the right. Now Ctrl+click on a link in that pane. As you can see, this action does not open up a 3rd pane. It simply takes you to a new location in the 2nd pane.
I think that Ctrl+clicking on a link should open up a new pane, regardless of which pane you’re clicking in.